Astro 28E: Field Astronomy in the Southern Sierra - Charting a Lunar Graze

Post-trip Photo Page

Perfect weather and a perfect graze, with a solid student contribution to the graze data. The Field Astronomy class was a big success - yet again!

I was looking colorful for my Saturday morning French Crepes cook fest.

Most of our group, at the entrance to the Trail of 100 Giants

Kolin and Riley, swallowed up by Giant Sequoia

Pro student assistant Lizzy enthusiastically passes out the "Principles of Planetary Science" mega-handout at Micro-lecture #1


A lot of Sequoia's gave us this kind of view

I'm dwarfed by a fallen giant

Dwarfed by two giants

Getting in touch with our roots

Our now-classic shot inside the big Hollow Sequoia

Annisa emerges

It was a hot day, and we voted to move our micro-lecture #4 to a swimming hole - which was not happening in the immediate area in this drought year. I offered a compromise, which was Alder Creek a few miles back towards camp.There I lectured on the origin of the Sierras and the possibility of tectonic activity on other planets.

Lizzy argues with Heidi on whether we're sitting on granite or grano-diorite.

Yep - Lizzy wins - granite it is! As the geology department student assistant, perhaps this was to be expected?

Our next micro-lecture was at Dome Rock, where we overlook one of the largest faults of the Sierra, producing the Kern River Canyon. Beyond are the beginnings of the Basin and Range geologic province

After Dome Rock, we returned to camp and prepared an early dinner. Our focus now was - the big graze of ZC 2771. It happened at 8:35pm and required us to caravan from the campground at 6:30pm sharp. We had 3 stations. One at the campground, manned by Fred and Ann. Station 2 was the main student station, which I'd outfitted with an 8" f/10 Meade telescope, tape recorder, and WWV shortwave radio to broadcast accurate time signals. I interviewed students to see who would be best for manning station #2 at the eyepiece of the telescope. Tye won the job, with his quick reaction times, maturity, and good ability to focus on the task at hand - the clear winner for to be our "eyeball man". The other students were support crew, and also took turns at the scope watching the approaching star.

I took the other half of the remaining students with me to Station 3, about a half mile further away, on the access road to Dome Rock. The graze was a big success. I set up on the short dirt road to Dome Rock about a half mile away.

Station 2, in positive spirits just before I leave to set up Station 3

At Station 3, after 2-star alt-az alignment, I sight in on the moon and star near the southern cusp,

Annisa watches the bright star as it disappears behind the first mountain on the dark side of the moon on the camcorder LCD screen

I adjust the video recorder setting while Steve, Annisa, and Riley watch

Our Station 3 team! Joe manned the 10x70 binoculars, but the graze was tough at this low power. He did confirm one of the timings. We then returned to camp and Station 1...

Station 1 had bad luck - the moon, low in Sagittarius, happened to pass right behind a pine tree at the time of the graze.


"Wow, Rick - you had a great graze at your site. We... got a tree...."

After playback, we adjourned to the campfire for celebration of a very successful graze - 20 timings from 2 stations, all with high accuracy. 'Smores were had, and I had my final micro-lecture (really, a meso-lecture) of the origin of the universe.

A fitting setting to present my lecture on the firey Big Bang birth of our Universe

The discussions then ranged far and wide into the night

Next morning, Lizzy bangs on tents for breakfast call

After breakfast, I showed the class how to reduce a audio/WWV graze tape, and plotted up the 20 timings we made on our graze. Beautifully self-consistent data! No bad timings - great work, gang!

For the graze, the IOTA .xls report is here.

Our final micro-lecture was on the origin of the elements making up the Earth's crust in stellar interiors, and how this explains their abundances.

On the drive home, in the foothills above Tulare, is this delightful spot. Perfect on this hot Indian Summer day/