Originally scheduled for Mono Hot Springs, it was a small risk that an early storm might drop snow on 9,100 ft Kaiser Pass and make the springs inaccessible. Small, but not small enough. Wednesday's storm dropped about 6" of snow on the pass and we had to shift to Plan B: Big Sur. I put together the new maps, new plans, and polled the group. Virtually everyone was fine with the redirect, and one good selling point was the much shorter drive. Weather was predicted to be great - warm and perfect astronomy weather. Ponderosa Campground is the best spot in Big Sur for astronomy; one of the darkest skies in Central California, and the upper loop has decent horizons and few trees. I've used it before; in Astro 28L. Ron arrived Thursday eve and grabbed 6 sites for us, and the rest of the class arrived Friday afternoon late. In addition to the students, we had Patti from Geo, Professor Chris Kitting from CSU East Bay, and Fred Miles, veteran astrophotographer as volunteers to demonstrate imaging and show details on astronomical objects not possible with the eye at the telescope. Chris, Fred and Ron brought telescopes to show students higher magnification views of the sky to complement our "comet catcher" 8" f/4 Schmidt-Newt from Cabrillo.

Friday night after a fine pasta dinner, we did a thorough exploration of Jupiter and Uranus in conjunction, star formation regions of Sagittarius, open clusters, normal globular clusters, and of course - Comet Hartley 2.

Our first Saturday lecture was by the Nacimiento River - on the nature of science, and on mainstream media and industry-sponsored "science", vs peer-reviewed journals. Then mount 'em up and head towards the coast.

This tarantula on the road brought me to a full stop, what with 12 cars behind me his chances of getting squashed were very high. We escorted him off the road, took some shots, and headed on to our next lecture spot.

A great overlook a few miles above camp was the setting for the lecture on the basic physics of planetary accretion and cooling, and why the Earth is unique in having plate tectonics. Then an intro to California's geologic history.

At Kirk Creek just above the shoreline are rocks characteristic of the old subduction zone that used to exist here.

I gave them an assignment - find a wide variety of metamorphic rocks and bring them back for a short lecture. And keep an eye out for jade - this weekend, at Jade Cove down the coast, was the annual Jade Festival

There was also a bit of time to simply contemplate and enjoy the Big Sur experience

Mallory holding a piece of jasper, or red chert I found...

...a metamorphic rock made of diatoms and radiolarians crushed and pressurized - conditions which characterize subduction zones.

Patti digging out interesting rocks from Kirk Creek, which steeply drains a sizeable area from the summit down to the beach.

A small waterfall on Kirk Creek

High on the ridge, on Nacimiento Road, looking back over the ocean

This raptor nested in a tree by Nacimiento Road and circled as we looked up.

After a group meal of (my Astro 28 specialty - asian rice), we set up for astronomy again. Here, I'm getting the 8" f/4 centered on Comet Hartley 2 to show the nucleus, coma, and rapid motion through the stars. Tonight, it made a close conjunction with a beautiful red giant star in Perseus.

Chris Kitting took this stacked series of images on Comet Hartley 2 and explained the process to students around the display. CN molecular emission makes the head and coma glow green. A very faint yellowish dust tail extends to lower left.

Chris demonstrating imaging as Orion rises in the east

Chris took this beautiful fisheye lens image showing the entire sky, with the Milky Way and prominent dusty centerplane well shown. It was the perfect time of year to detail to student the position of the Sun inside our Galaxy.

Astro 8A student Becky had her heart set on doing her photo project on Comet Hartley 2 and I helped get her set up, using our ST4000xcm CCD camera and computer. She took a series of eight 5-minute exposures which will make an awesome final stacked image...

Sunday morning I got up early to start carving veges for a group breakfast. Charmaigne made me a nice gift - this chef's hat!

Alex follows his nose to breakfast cooking...

...of fried veges, potatoes, and eggs in my special curry sauce.

Our final lecture is at shady spot with unique conglomerate bedrock along the campground creek a 5 minute walk from our campsite.


Taking careful notes. Pearls of wisdom must not be lost.


Is that a halo around our instructor? (or just grey hair maybe)


I couldn't have done it without the hard work of Patti and Chris - thank you!! Kudo's too to Fred, Ann, and Ron, for help in the kitchen and at the telescopes.