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First night out

The Milky Way rising over Lomaki pueblo.

The Milky Way rising over Lomaki pueblo.

Thursday, May 16

The wind was blowing quite hard yesterday, I could see the flag outside the Visitor Center flying straight out, not a good sign. Lots of dust in the air as well as the usual clouds by early afternoon. Wondered if things would clear by night. Early in the day I drove into Flagstaff to meet up with artist Bruce Aiken. He’s an incredible painter who operated the water pumping station on the floor of the Grand Canyon for 33 years. He was an artist from early in his life and made hundreds of paintings while living at the Canyon. Bruce is with Flagstaff Area Monuments, a group promoting the national monuments near the city. He and Rene Westbrook, the artist-in-residence coordinator at the Grand Canyon helped arrange for my residency at Wupatki.

Back at the park I looked at the Wukoki Pueblo, about 3 miles from the visitor center. Late in the day Holly had brought me a box of equipment I shipped to the area parks headquarters in Flagstaff, which had made an intermediate stop at nearby at the Sunset Crater HQ.  The box had some crucial things so now I could start shooting. In the box was an iOptron SkyTracker, a device about the size of a big paperback book that tracks the stars as they move across the sky. You attach a camera to it, align it with Polaris, the north star, and it matches the earth’s rotation so long exposures can be taken without the stars making streaks across the image. I went to the Lomaki Pueblo to experiment and even with slight wind and occasional gusts, it worked well.

Holly reminded me to carry a flashlight at night since its rattlesnake season. I did but did not see any. But saw bats flying around at dusk and I think one may have almost crashed into me as I was setting up the camera. Lots of birds out, especially around the apartments, but I’ve seen no other animals.

I "discovered" a Lunar alignment. Moonlight came through a door and onto the darkened floor in the shape of a dagger, slowly moving east...

....then about 30 minutes later, the light hits the step of the door opposite the first door!

….then about 30 minutes later, the light hits the step of the door opposite the first door! Not exactly a summer solstice alignment, but not bad for the moon.


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