Astro 28M: Field Astronomy from the High Desert: Two Lunar Grazes

Apr 15-17, 2005

Check the Post Trip Highlights page!

We're going to the desert! The goal is to explore planetary surfaces and the processes which shape them. We will study the moon and its dark profile by video recording lunar grazing occultations; we get a rare opportunity to get two bright lunar grazes in a single weekend from the same area. What's a graze, you ask? Check it out! Read more about our grazes here.



We will plan to camp this weekend in Red Rock Canyon State Park in the El Paso Mountains area of the western Mojave, just over the pass from Bakersfield. Read more about this beautiful state park here. The desert is not only a great place for astronomy, but also is an ideal location for learning about the processes that mold the crusts of the inner planets - faulting, volcanism, metemorphism, erosion. As always, this class will feature some great cooking by yours truely - my now famous french crepes breakfasts and an equally delicous dinner, to be enjoyed around the campfire while I lecture on the moon, planets, stars, galaxies, and the formation of the universe.

During the day, we'll use the fault-carved and mineral-rich local environs as a setting to help explain the evolutionary processes that shape the earth and the inner planets in general.

Randsburg is one of the most interesting old mining towns of the Mojave Desert. It is about 50 miles northeast of the town of Mojave, perched on the side of a mountain range which reaches over 5,000ft. It's glory days as a gold mining town over 100 years ago are long gone, but there is still a tiny population in this interesting little town with one main street and a few old homes dotting the hillsides. It caters mostly to desert explorers now, although a little mining is still happening in the area.




Randsburg has a panoramic view of the Garlock Valley, which is a graben formed by the Garlock Fault - a rare transverse fault - spreading apart the El Paso Mountains on the north side and the Rand Mountains on the south. It is home to the Desert Tortoise Natural area, to Koehn Dry Lake, and is adjacent to the oxide-colored red cliffs of Red Rock Canyon State Park - a frequent and time-tested destination for these Cabrillo astronomy trips. BLM land dominates this area and primitive camping is allowed in many areas. Read more about Randsburg here.

Registering for the class...

The initial sign-up day, Feb 9, is now past. The class filled, and there is a waiting list of 8. If you want me to add your name to the wait list, call me (479-6506) or email me. If it turns out that a space opens up for you, there is a $15 camping fee, and upon receipt of the fee, I will have our division personnel approve your name in the Admin&Records computer to allow you to register for the class. I'm easiest to reach if you come by my office at 706a at 11am sharp on Monday or Wednesday.

There is, as always, an on-campus session before the trip. It's on Wednesday afternoon April 6 at 5pm in Room 706 - the Cabrillo College Planetarium. At this session we'll arrange car pools, distribute maps and detailed instructions. I'll also have a lecture and planetarium show with slides. I love cooking great meals for my classes, but new rules imposed by state codes, forbids me to buy your food. So, I'll have a list of the ingredients, and we'll find volunteers or perhaps a single 'shopping czar' to buy what we'll need. Note that the on-campus first meeting of the class is one week before the date in the schedule of classes. This is by universal agreement at the sign-up session. It will be good to have an extra week for students to get together to buy the food.

Update Mar. 3, 2005

Red Rock Canyon State Park has taken itself off the ReserveAmerica reservation system. It's first-come / first-served camping. So, given this is a prime Spring weekend for L.A.liens, we should try and get one or two cars to arrive as early on Friday as possible to snag 4 campsites. Note that we will want the 4 sites that are farthest south on the camp loop. Given it's a one-way drive, those are the last 4 sites you come to. These are by far the best for doing astronomy from and also get access to the local desert wonders. Any volunteers?


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