Astro 28C: Field Astronomy - Charting a Lunar Graze from the High Desert

Mar 25-27, 2011

Registration Instructions

Schedule and Grading

Addenum to the Final Exam

Post-Trip Photo Page

These field astronomy courses try and target a special astronomical happening and integrate it into a general course on astronomy and planetary science. For this episode... we'll be learning about and making scientific observations of a lunar grazing occultation: On Sunday morning Mar 27, an 8.4 magnitude star grazes the dark limb near the northern cusp of the waning 39% cresent moon in the early morning hours. This is during prime wildflower season in the desert, and the path goes right across Red Rock Canyon State Park. This is a beautiful place and will be our site for this field trip.

But... the Schedule of Classes says the Sonoma Mountains? Note that the Cabrillo Schedule of Classes has this class going to the Sonoma Mountains. Back a year ago when this class had to be ready to submit to the Schedule, we were indeed going to the Sonoma Mountains, for another graze on April 9. Because that fell during Spring Break, I was told I could not schedule then, which of course means I also had to pick another astronomical event. While this March 27 graze is not as spectacular, the setting is certainly MORE spectacular, and is, on the whole, going to be a more interesting trip, I expect.

We have had three other Astro 28 Field Astronomy courses held here, as well as a special trip by the Astro 9 class to observe the Great Leonids Meteor Storm of 2001. See the photo pages from our Astro 28M in 2005, and Astro 28Q in spring 2006 and get a taste of the adventures we plan.

Astronomical Highlights

First and foremost is our grazing lunar occultation. Here's the planning page, showing where we'll have our two observing sites; one for me and the videorecorder, and one (the "student station") where some of you will be doing the observing. Other students will stay with me. The two spots are only ~1500 feet apart - close enough to run between in case there's a last second battery failure or other emergency.

We'll have pitch black skies in the evenings and be able to study the star formation regions of Orion, the great star clusters of Gemini and also be able to study the rings and moons of Saturn in Virgo. I'll cook up a delicious breakfast of French Crepes on Saturday morning, and we'll do a short trek to the backcountry of the El Paso Mountains studying the rich mineral history and old gold and borax mines of the area, explore the bizarre Burro Schmidt tunnel, and I'll present the geologic history of California and the Basin and Range province on which Red Rock Canyon sits at the edge.


Here's our schedule and syllabus . Note that we have an essential Orientation in the first week of February, then a mandatory pre-trip meeting in the planetarium on Wednesday before our Friday departure to Red Rock. the Schedule of Classes might appear to say that we have a final exam a few weeks after the trip, but this is NOT what will happen. Instead, you'll have a take-home exam and this exam must be snail-mailed (not emailed) back to me 1 week after the end of the trip. You may also hand-deliver it to the NAS division office in room 701, where the staff will put it into my mailbox.



Our Campsites

I'd like to get the 4 sites at the far southern end, they're the last 4 sites on the one-way loop as you cruise through the campground. I'm hoping they'll be unclaimed when our advance scout(s) arrive. They'll be most hidden from the lights of other campers. All sites are first come / first served, and our advance man Fred will hopefully be able to get these, as in the past trips. They're marked with red "x"'s on the photo at left from Google Earth.




Check out what a lunar graze is all about here.

The Rules of the Class

Camper's Checklist