Tech Trek is a program for middle school young women who have been selected by their teachers for their talent and interest in science. They spend a week in intensive settings at Stanford University learning science and mathematics, and one of the highlights is an evening under the stars in a field on campus, where amateur and professional astronomers teach them about the galaxies, planets, and other objects of the night sky. They're super enthusiastic and it's a lot of fun for all involved.

Alas, this year's session was the cloudiest in the 17 years of the program, and it was a challenge to find holes in the clouds and build a talk around what could be found. I think I did quite well at this, talking about stellar extinction, why stars twinkle, thermal spectra, how interstellar dust affects starlight, and the nature of planetary nebulae. We were treated to a beautiful sunset to start things off. My student assistant Becky was happy to attend, as the organizers were particularly interested in having women in astronomy to help inspire the young. I brought the 10" Meade, and the big 10x70 bino's, which Becky used to help show off the conjunction between the moon and Saturn this evening.

Mid-level clouds from tropical moisture, made a beautiful sunset

Becky and I, and about 8 other scopes and volunteers were there on the hill next to the "Enchanted Brocolli Farm"

Especially early on, this is pretty much what we dealt with. I did find a tiny patch of clear sky in southern Libra, enough to find a few stars to look at and give me a chance to talk about optics and stars

Eager young scientists were never-the-less quite happy to mill about, ask questions, look through scopes when something could be spotted, and talk astronomy.