Sensible winter observing.

Following hours in observing and too much time fishing in winter ,here’s a few ideas.

Some advice for this time of year . Wrap up ! Most body heat leaves at your neck. A buff or scarf are ideal.Thick socks are essential, a thin inner and thick outer are ideal, cardboard insoles hold heat and are free.Thin gloves are useful. A thick down jacket is lovely ( I use a Trespass Igloo jacket), matched with base layers, top and bottom. Don’t struggle on , a few hours will leave you pleased ,instead of fed up.

Be aware that bringing in refractors from severe cold to central heating can in extreme conditions , crack the objective. This is particularly the case with fluorite . Similarly don’t overtighten fixing bolts , metal contracts in the cold. A chap a few years ago managed this and his mount slid off the mount. The cheap grease often found in focusers can gel at lower temperatures. It’s an easy job for Lee to strip them and change to a light Lithium grease. Be aware that cold will zap battery power, an insulated box or an old blanket will keep voltage up. Very often GOTO will suffer when voltage drops, you might be surprised to check the voltage on your handset reading the ubiquitous 11.3v. I use a trickle charger connected up to the battery .

Although the best viewing is after midnight , when the air settles, it’s coldest just before dawn. Often you’ll find the deep frost creeps in then. Watch for air currents that you generate yourself , these can come from hugging a Dobsonian for example. Dew is not much of a problem, until spring and autumn ,there will be a greater heat difference between ground and air on a hard surface than from grass.This will add to heat currents and dew through temperature difference. The coldest month is probably February, you’ll find snow to be a nuisance, throwing light upwards.

A hot drink is always welcome , beware of opening the fridge door for milk. Your dark adapted eyes will lose night vision, it’s that fridge light that stays on all the time ! I avoid coffee, it has an adverse effect on vision and although you’ll get a caffeine high , you’ll soon be back to below par !

Beware of 4am . Your body is at its lowest , its equivalent to being over the drink drive limit. It’s when you do silly things ! Appreciate that your body needs at least 7 hours sleep, too little can seriously affect your health and even affect your DNA. This might lead to a different species , Homo astronomensis ! Sleep is a restorative process for your body and mind.

There are no medals for suffering out there ! Make your list of objectives and enjoy these long , dark and clear nights ( whenever), Nick.

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