Astronomy 27: Field Astronomy at Pinnacles National Park


For the Spring '20 Radically Different On-Line Version, See Resources Here.

Syllabus , the PowerPoint , and as PDF file

MapPacket PPTX , and as PDF file

Astro 27 is our oldest field astronomy course. I designed it in the late 1980's in conjunction with the Cabrillo Geology department. The goal was to create a concentrated exposure to general astronomy in a dark sky location, with observing of astronomical objects integrated into the lecture material, and to dovetail with a concentrated course in field geology. Alas, as of 2019, this is no longer true. Astro 27 is taught independent of Geo 27, on different weekends. For more on the details of registration and course particulars.. Pinnacles National Park has facinating geology. We'll explore some of it on Sunday. Here's a link I found from another college's geology course relevant for this area.

For our Spring '20 class, we will be camping at Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, south of Pinnacles, so that we will have darker and more undistrubed skies with better horizons for Astronomy, and - something we can't do at Pinnacles - go swimming in Nature. On Saturday we'll do a 5 mile round trip hike up to Laguna Falls, a beautiful 60 foot waterfall into a large swimming hole, in an area of interesting land forms, wildflowers, and streams. On Sunday morning after an early breakfast, we'll drive to Pinnacles National Park and explore the caves and finish our lectures. Pinnacles National Park is a volcanic remnant about 80 miles south of Aptos. It is usually far enough inland to avoid fog coming down the Salinas Valley. Even more true for Laguna Mountain.



Friday after setting up camp, I lecture on the optics of telescopes as well as continue the on-going lecture on star formation and stellar evolution, pointing out various star types and places in their personal evolution with my monster green laser pointer.



Saturday afternoon after the waterfall hike we'll option for a scramble down the creek back to the trail, or take the trail - your choice! Back at camp, you'll have some "'you time", and you may want to hike the trail up to Laguna Mtn itself, if you have lots of energy. Then dinner, and by dark we'll be exploring the deep sky with the giant optics of JP's 25" Dobsonian and/or Kirk B's 12", and the computerized "GoTo" 8" 8SE Celestron I'll bring from Cabrillo Observatory, and binoculars. Spring is prime time for Galaxies, as the Virgo Cluster rides high in the south, and the nearby Ursa Major Group of galaxies, including M81/M82 and the Whirlpool Galaxy are well placed. Early Spring we can still see Winter Milky Way gems like the Orion Nebula and the great Star Clusters of Gemini and Cancer too.

Sunday morning we'll have a quick breakfast of gourmet home-made (by my lab assistant Becky!) granola and fruit, and clean up/ pack up, and then drive north towards home, but stopping at Pinnacles National Park for exploring either the Bear Gulch caves, or the Balconies Caves, depending on parking. By early afternoon, we'll pass out the final exams (take home), and say our adieu's!.

I'll be cooking for you! A pasta and salad and bread dinner on Friday. Centerpiece of the culinary adventure will be my famous French Crepes breakfast on Saturday, Asian Rice a'la Nolthenius on Satuday night, and home-made toasted granola on Sunday morning.

Rich Hart, Cabrillo emeritus engineering instructor, enthralled with condor-watching A link to the Pinnacles condor flock

California Condors! Rarest birds on Earth, biggest birds in North America

Chris, enjoying mind and senses immersed in TriTip!

Lecturing around the scopes

Evening lectures are under the night sky if clear, and around the campfire if cloudy. I lecture on planet and solar system formation, stellar evolution, galaxy structure and evolution, and cosmology and the origin of the universe.

Former Astro LIA Dave McKulle, cooking up some Tri Tip.

Below I've grouped together photo's from past Pinnacles adventures... Enjoy!

Spring '06 (courtesy of Scott Early)

Fall '06

Spring '07

Fall '07

Spring '08

Spring '09

Fall '09

Fall '10 (courtesy of Kirk Bender)

Fall '11 (courtesy of Kirk Bender)

Spr '12 (courtesy of Kirk Bender)

Fall '12 (courtesy of Kirk Bender)

Fall '13 (courtesy of Kirk Bender)

Fall '14 (Thanks, Kirk, again for great photography!)

Spring '16

Spring '19 (more great photography from Kirk Bender)

Spring '20