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Oklahoma Weather - Reprise

Posted by Ronald Abraham   10/26/2009 09:03AM

The local Gun Club a few miles from our place has started a new astronomy program. The club assigned a director who is posting first quarter event dates for lunar observation and last quarter event dates for deep sky on the club's event calendar. The lunar dates are obviously a bit more critical.

So far, I have a record of five emails regarding postponements since mid-October. If you sign up on website, you get an email to confirm or postpone. I pay close attention to weather indicators like and internet weather sites and - as a member of the club - I can go whenever I want.

But it is critically important that those who are not experienced and those who are not members don't waste a 20 mile or longer round trip with friends or kids aboard to arrive at a locked gate, broken clouds and no event.

There is a darker observatory site only 39 miles from my house, but this place is maybe 10 miles away. No doubt I'll see folks who I compete with in Military Bolt Action, Sporting Clays, etc.

The uncertainty of when we'll finally get a hole in the clouds equates to often having to decide on an astronomy outing at the last minute. 10 days ago the noon forecaster predicted clear skies by 5PM; the skies remained overcast till 1:00PM the following day and finally broke up by 7:00PM. My decision not to load 300 pounds of Newtonian telescope and accesories the day before worked out thanks to an email that said "let's wait till tomorrow".

Oklahoma had a quiet year as far as tornados and thunderstorms, but the precipitation is up 20+% over average as predicted by the most accurate long term weather forecasts available - The Farmers Almanac. Meanwhile we have seen precious little in the way of monster low pressure systems crossing from equatorial waters off Africa toward the Carribean to form Hurricanes.

A relative in Tucson is always telling me the "weather is nice" whenever we visit by phone. After receiving an email from Jack Newton about an available property I almost got up enough courage to ask my wife if we could afford to buy some retirement property. She was already looking over my shoulder as I went through my email. I turned and looked with sad eyes. She responded silently with her expression that says "DON"T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT."

The astronomer's practical alternatives are to do his or her best. Having a moderately dark site nearby is a blessing. Having such a site with hot coffee, cold drinks, microwaves, and air conditioned and heated spaces is a blessing. Having an event coordinator who is vigliant about keeping all interested parties posted makes it ideal.

I never know when I might have to show up at work; it is the nature of my business. Plumbers and doctors deal with the same thing. It is good to know that someone has your back. I am knowledgeable enough to do what the event coordinator does; if I miss an event due to a scheduling conflict I can always go on another appropriatly clear night. Since members and guests might also have scheduling conflicts on an event night, another amateur astronomer member could arrange with the event coordinator to email notify about an additional event. I would certainly welcome the company while I am observing.

Clouds, temperature extremes, dew, scheduling difficulties, less than ideal darkness, etc. all conspire to make amateur astronomy difficult and frustrating. As with most human endeavors, working through the difficulties through communication is usually the solution. I will likely be with several other people on the property this week. So a far it looks like several parents and kids and a couple of guys with instruments. The program is new, but with 800 member families and the best all around site anywhere near east Tulsa, Coweta, and Broken Arrow, I believe we'll all be better off.

Our club has a complete kitchen, camp grounds, showers, and two small lakes. I asked if we could eventually have events with cookouts preceeding events and/or breakfasts after all nighters. The answer was "of course". As far as I'm concerned, it does not get better than that. I have volunteered to help however I can to make this work. I have very little experience with other astronomy clubs - maybe 5 or 6, so I really don't know the extent of what everyone else does; but I think we are off to a great start in what most would consider a lousy climate for our hobby. As with most things, if you don't have the best ingredients, you don't give up; you do the best you and make lemonade.