Astro 27 - Field Astronomy at Pinnacles National Monument

Spring '12

This spring, we had a particularly good turnout of astronomical luminaries - Professor Chris Kitting came down to show his imaging techniques using DSLR on a Takahashi refractor, Kirk Bender (aka Capn' Kirk) his 12" for showing off the galaxies of the Spring sky, and JP (aka Captain Quasar) drove all the way down from Grass Valley with his 18" Obsession dobsonian and helped show galaxies to their maximum advantage, and even some Seyferts and quasars.

On the Apr 22 Fireball
We had 3 of our team make observations of this distant but very impressive fireball, which exploded over the Sierra. Andrew got a good sighting, including the explosion at the end, through the triangle of blue sky seen from the far table near the big Oak, looking NNE. Kirk heard the sonic boom. I, alas, didn't see or hear a thing, rushing around madly before piling into the cars for the trip to the caves. It turned out to be a very rare carbonaceous chondrite, with the fastest trajectory known (see account of paper published). Here's Kirk's accounting...

 When I got home from the trip, I remembered that some students said they saw a daytime fireball.  I googled california meteor and read accounts of it, and they said there was a boom, then it occurred to me I did hear something that morning, just as we were getting ready to go to the caves.
It wasn't a quick sharp boom, but an extended loud rumble.  But I thought it was a low fighter jet associated with Fort Hunter Liggett or Camp Roberts or something.  I thought it was rude of someone to fly that loud near a national monument, scaring the condors, etc.  I thought the sound was coming from the southwest, I took a quick glance that direction but just saw the surrounding hills.  I was trying to pack my stuff so I didn't scan the sky completely unfortunately, and I always carry one or more cameras so it's a shame I didn't get a picture of it, if there was anything to see.   Maybe you and others heard it but subconsciously dismissed it as a passing jet too.  It could have coincidentally been a jet, but it sure didn't sound like the usual distant airliner.

Kirk's photos from the trip are on Flicker, here.