Astro 28N: Field Astronomy at Sequoia National Park

Apr 9-11, 2010

Registration for this class

Overview: We will be exploring Sequoia National Park and the story it can tell about the dynamics of the Earth's crust. We'll study planetary science, with the mountain building of the Sequoia region and glaciation episodes of recent geologic history as our setting. The astronomical highlight is the occultation of a bright star by the asteroid Sternberga on Saturday just after sunset. These events are valuable scientifically as they are the most efficient means astronomers have for measuring the precise shape and size of these interesting objects. The event will be challenging to observe because it happens while we still have bright twilight, and will require rapidly finding the star in binoculars. We'll practice finding the star during Friday evening and I will prepare finder charts to help in "star hopping" to the target star.

Where: We'll camp at Potwisha Campground (first come / first serve - hope we have some early birds among the students) just outside the edge of Sequoia National Park (ariel view at left), and then drive into the park on Saturday to hike and explore several sites and listen to lectures on planetary science and local geology. We'll also explore some of the largest trees on earth - the giant Sequoias (including the General Grant tree, at left). We'll do trail hiking along Sierra rivers to explore glaciation areas and the plutonic rock of this area. Apr 10 is early in the spring and Potwisha is the best site for doing astronomy and also will be at a comfortable temperature. (Most of the campgrounds in the park are closed until late May). It will be a short drive to explore key locations within the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I will obtain National Park fee waivers for all student carpool vehicles.

Potwisha Campground: On the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, 4 miles (6.5km) from Sequoia Park entrance, under an open stand of oaks. At 2100-foot (640m) elevation 12 miles (19km) from the Giant Forest sequoia grove.
No reservations: First come, first served.
Amenities: 42 sites (including 1 handicap site), flush toilets, RV disposal station, & pay phone. One bear-resistant food-storage box provided at each campsite: 47" long x 33" deep x 28" high.
Fee: $18/night per site (covered by your camping fees)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks , and a live webcam at Giant Forest

Tentative Schedule

Saturday night's occultation by the asteroid Sternburga

One sight nearby which we'll want to study is Hospital Rock - with rare pictographs from Native Americans who lived here long ago.


Park map

Morro Rock