Astro 28W: Field Astronomy - Granite Domes and High Sierra Hot Springs

Sept 14-16, 2007

PostTrip Photo Page

This weekend we're going somewhere new - to the High Sierra near Mono Hot Springs. This is due east of Fresno and is one of the nearer locations which can get us to the dark clean skies of the Sierra. It also is home to a delightful thermal hot spring complex which will allow us to study the gurglings of Mother Earth and talk about inner planet structure and evolution through total immersion (so to speak).

Location (map)

Mono Hot Springs is above Lake Edison, east of Fresno. Directions are on the map at right. It's at 6,500 ft elevation and has extremely dark skies. We'll be there on the last weekend of summer, after the mosquito season is over, after the families and their kids are back in school, and before the cold weather arrives. For google Earth or GPs fans, the coordinates are: Long=119.016W, Lat=37.326N. And here is a link to the topographic map of the area. As we get close to our weekend, here's the Weather Underground site to check on the latest weather forecast.

The campground is first come / first serve in September, and is right on the south fork of the San Jaquin River

South fork of the San Jaquin River near camp.

Doris Lake, near camp, is a warm swimming location


Astronomical Highlights

September is the ideal time to study the star fields and nebulae of the summer Milky Way. This is the region which contains the center of our galaxy and is home to over 100 thousand million stars. The constellations of Sagittarius, Scorpius, Aquila and Cygnus contain some of the finest deep sky objects in the sky, strewn across the Sagittarius spiral arm of our galaxy about 5 kiloparsecs inside the sun's orbit around the Galaxy. We'll study the Eagle Nebula, the Lagoon Nebula, the North America Nebula, the beautiful supernova remnant known as the Veil Nebula, and a large collection of open star clusters and globular star clusters. All of these objects I've captured in digital photographs which you can see here.

We'll also study the planet Jupiter, which dominates the evening sky in the Milky Way starfields of Sagittarius. The slender evening cresent moon will be in Virgo and Libra and set soon after twilight ends, giving us dark skies.

Planetary Science

During the day, we'll take short hikes to study the many and varied Mono Hot Springs by a direct first-hand immersive experience! Doris Lake and the thermal springs which feed it, study the granite domes and paint the story of the glaciations which formed them, and have in-the-field lectures along the way. These lectures will cover the structure of the inner planets of our solar system, what conditions are needed in order for a planet to be geologically active, tectonic activity, the geological history of California and the Sierra, and also rock types and morphology.

Course Grading

Your grades will be based on class participation and enthusiasm, and also on your take-home final exam which you'll mail in to me a week or two after our return. Take note - these classes are important to me, and to the Astronomy program. It's important that I do everything I can to encourage participation by good students who will be responsible. Grading will therefore have some subjective component - a helpful attitude around the group work loads, a willingness to listen to the lectures and participate in the discussions, no swearing, and a strict adherence to the Cabrillo policy of no drugs or alcohol. These classes are always a lot of fun - we blend learning with enjoyment and this makes for the maximum educational impact.. Join us!

Post Trip...

An excellent adventure! See the photos here

Camper's Checklist