Carrizo Plain is one of the top places in central and southern California to do Astronomy and most certainly the top place to do a combo Astronomy + Planetary Science class such as Astro 28R. It's a beautiful wide valley made by the San Andreas Fault, and the largest remaining tract of native California grassland and native mammal ecology in the state. For this reason, it was designated a national monument for preservation in 1995. It gets few visitors except during the late March / April wildflower season. What with the drought, we'll have few wildflower people this year - maybe none! I've done solo retreats, participated in wildflower photo workshops, and brought my Astro 28 students here probably a total of a dozen times over the past decade. Check out the post-trip photo pages for my Astro 28 field astronomy classes at Carrizo Plain in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2012.

The astronomical spectacle which this year's Astro 28R is built around is a very rare opportunity to observe not one but two bright lunar grazing occultations from nearly the same locations on the same night. These events are still the most accurate means we have of keeping track of the changing orbit of the moon due to effects such as tidal friction and general relativity. They are also beautiful to watch, as the star hugs the Earth-lit ghostly dark side of the moon, winking on and off as it is hidden and uncovered by the profiled mountains and valleys on the edge of the moon. We get two bright grazes as the moon passes through the Milky Way on Friday night, and that will require students to get an early start on driving down from Santa Cruz. Our grazes are described on a separate page here. I've made a separate page showing the maps and lunar profiles for our two grazes.

Our campsite is high in the Caliente Mountains, with spectacular views overlooking Carrizo Plain, Painted Rock, Soda Lake, and the fault scarps, some of which are visible in the title picture above.

For those who chip in for me to provide you meals, I'll cook my famous (Huell Howser approved!) French Crepes breakfast on Saturday, as well as dinners and a hearty Sunday breakfast

The title picture at top was taken from our camp. The campsite is not at a campground (the two campgrounds are not nearly as interesting as our campsite). There is no water or facilities, so be prepared to "go native", and bring your own water. I'll bring extra water for our meals. The national monument is not primarily for tourists, but instead is designed as a nature preserve for the ecosystems. There is a small, simple Visitors Center which we'll visit, but the only water in the area is at the campground about a mile from where we'll be bivouacing.

The fault trace created by the Great Quake of 1857 (the Fort Tejon Quake) is still visible and obvious across much of the plain. Here, my 2012 class straddles the fault, knitting together the Pacific Plate and the Salinian Block

During the day on Saturday, we'll explore the landforms created by the evolution of the San Andreas Fault. Carrizo Plain shows the most dramatic and oft-photographed segment of the San Andreas, with scarps, offset stream beds, fault gullys, sag ponds. If we can, we'll try and get a tour of a sacred Chumash Native American site and a rare pictograph panel still showing vivid original colors, at Painted Rock. Next we explore Soda Lake, a huge complex of sag ponds formed from the differing slants of the landscape as the fault moves through the landscape, then to Wallace Creek and other offset stream beds. I'll be giving my famous "micro-lectures" along the way, keeping attention spans sharp by plenty of interspersed hiking and travelling. We might also have time on the way out on Sunday to pause and take a look at the new large scale solar farms going in north of the Monument.


I will have handouts for you describing the planetary processes which govern the inner solar system, Earth, California, and Carrizo Plain and give these out once we're in the camp.

Note that our grazes, the central science opportunity of the trip, occurs on Friday night so you will have to get off work or otherwise find a way to leave Santa Cruz early enough to meet either at the campsite or, if you're late, at the Visitor's Center where we'll team up for the graze. We will need to be ready to rock 'n' roll doing Big Science right from the moment you arrive in Carrizo Plain! Afterwards, by Saturday morning, things will relax a bit as the time pressure will be less.


Campers Checklist, and another list

Rules of the Field Class

Planetary Geology

Late registration

This web page will grow as I prepare for the class, so stay tuned.