Observing in Sodankylä and looking for a dark sky site

It had been a long cloudy period here up north (and before that, long, long light summer), but then in friday evening sky got clear (and the sky is already getting dark enough to observe), and I was finally able to make observations! This time I was observing in Sodankylä town, because I had to be working again in the next morning. I made observations from the parking lot of my apartment, which is situated in sub/semi-“urban” place. There are some severe spot type -light pollution there, but otherwise the site is ok. I noticed, that it is possible to escape the lights by going behind one trash bin shelter, where I could observe without losing my dark adaptation. This time I observed R Cyg, whose brightness had dropped to 12,0 mag.

Observing conditions were actually surprisingly good: it was mostly clear sky during my observing session, NELM was around 5,1 and SQM was 20,35! That isn’t a bad reading at all considering the observing place!

So, the conclusions are, that it is possible to make some observations from the parking lot of my apartment, and that after all, it isn’t at all so bad place!

Summary of obs session #6/11-12
Date: 2/3.9.2011
Time: 23.45-00.15
Place: Sodankylä, Finland
Instruments used: L102/1000mm, naked eye
Objects observed: R Cyg
Conditions: NELM: 5.1, SQM: 20.35, astronomical twilight, humid air, + 5 °C, mostly clear sky

It seems that my working period here in Sodankylä gets a little longer, and thus I wanted look a real, good dark sky -observing site near Sodankylä where I could make observations. I had been looking for a certain large gravel pit about 21 km north of Sodankylä, 2 km south of village of Kersilö. Last night I had an exceptional chance to go and test that siten. I went there very early, and I noticed that the place resembled much my observing site in Parainen! 🙂 In that place, horizon is very open to every direction, and there aren’t any major sources of light pollution.

I arrived the site in early evening, it was still civil twilight, and I could see two owls flying silently over and around me while they were hunting! That was a really stunning experience, owls are such mighty birds! And besides that, I could also hear swans calling in a river close to my site.

Last night, when I was there for first time, I made observations of observing conditions (I actually made 5 observations in total) and then I also tried to observe R CrB, but I couldn’t see it and I had to make a negative observation. It’s brightness was less than 10,7 mag.

Observing conditions last night were not so ideal, during early September, we get still only astronomical twilight here up north and that causes the sky to stay still a little light (especially in the north). Also there were aurora borealis last night, which partially affected negatively to observing conditions. Nevertheless, I have to admit, that the aurora show last night was really stunning and awesome, especially after long and light summer! Also air was very humid though the night, and that also had a negative effect to observing conditions. Around midnight came the clouds, which interrupted my observing, and I had to leave. When I left my observing place, the aurora show was in really magnificent phase, and I could see the aurorae sparkling from the holes in the clouds before entering car and leaving the site.

Conclusions are, that this site is a really good, dark observing place! And it takes only 20 minutes to drive there, and I’m pretty sure, that I will be visiting that place many times while I’m staying here in Sodankylä!

Summary of obs session #7/11-12
Date: 3/4.9.2011
Time: 21.45-23.50
Place: Kersilö, Sodankylä, Finland
Instruments used: L102/1000mm, naked eye
Objects observed: R CrB
Conditions: NELM: 5.1, SQM: 19.56, astronomical twilight, aurora borealis, humid air, + 1 °C, clear sky in early evening, cloudy in midnight


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