For amateur astronomers, a “sucker hole” is when it looks clear enough to set up, but as soon as you’re ready to get started, it clouds up again, and you feel like a dope. We’ve been waiting for Spring to get started for what seems like forever. I first heard spring peepers March 9, and knew spring was at least a possibility. But that was followed by weeks of mostly wintry weather and several days of serious snowfall. So for our little tree frogs, a day warm enough to chorus and mate might turn out to be just a “sucker hole”, and I’ve often wondered if the following cold snap is a nuisance or a disaster for them. On March 26, I heard the peepers again; it was 31 degrees, and blizzarding giant flakes of snow.
Tonight, we had a few clouds around sunset, but it cleared up very nicely, so I opened the hut and hoped to get a few pictures before the moon came up. I framed NGC 4435 and 4438 in Virgo (“The Eyes”) and set up a series of 300 second exposures. I went inside and saw that the results were crap; I went back out, and sure enough, alto-cumulus had moved in. I collected 3 frames and processed them just to see what results you could actually get under really, really poor transparency, with strong moonlight illuminating the cloud cover. The remarkable thing to me is that the galaxies are easily identifiable, including a suggestion of the distorted chaos of 4438 on the right.
The image combines 3 – 300 second integrations, without very good registration. The actual exposure is probably much less, with the clouds acting as a shutter.