Astro 28J: Post-Trip Highlights

Our primary destination site - Parker Meadow - had not opened as the ranger had expected, and so our Thusday advance man Dave McKulle got us our backup site; Long Meadow campground. Views to the west were difficult, but the north, east, and south were outstanding.

Weather on Friday night was perfect. Our optical firepower consisted of - Jeff Jolin's 12" LX200, Cabrillo's 8" Meade, Chris Angelos' 8" Meade, Dave McKulle's 8" Dob, and 3 pairs of 10x70 binoculars on tripod mounts. Friday evening we began our viewing with Comet Q4 NEAT, which was incredibly beautiful with its glowing dust tail streaming just underneath the Beehive Star Cluster. It was a long drive and our crew didn't fully arrive until dark, so we concentrated on viewing and put off photography until Saturday night.. The comet set early in the pines from the meadow's edge. We had one little adventure - Genoa found and rescued a baby spotted owl that had found its way into our restroom.

After comet viewing I prepared a dinner of Thai basmatti rice in cocanut milk, fresh veges, a garden salad, and pot luck desserts, followed by a short lecture around the campfire. Then, out to the meadow for lectures and observations of planetary nebulae, stellar evolutionary stages, and galaxy morphology. As we wrapped at midnight, the summer Milky Way was rising above the trees on the far side of the meadow, showing the best globular clusters and open clusters in the sky.

Saturday morning at 4:23am was the occultation of a 10.7 star by the asteroid Massalia. The plan was for me to videorecord the event and then we could study the tape right after breakfast, so most students would not lose sleep - just me! Alas, I didn't get to sleep till 1:15am, and was up again at 3:30am and despite having an hour to pull things together, I could not get the focus correct on the CCD chip in time. Since the combined light drop was only 0.3 magnitude, it was tough visually. Nevertheless, with only 3 minutes left, I pulled off the PC164c camera and tried to get it visually. No luck, I just couldn't see such a slight light loss.

Next morning dawned cloudy, as Dave McKulle frowns at the change in weather while Genoa cuts fresh fruit and I work on my masterpiece French crepe breakfast for the group.


Then, off to the Trail of 100 Giants - one of the finest groves of giant sequoia trees left on earth. Across the street is Redwood Meadow Campground, where King Rick and his court of princesses Rebecca, Heather, and Adria grace a freshly carved throne.


Jeff, Gwenyve and Genoa inside a fire-scared ancient tree at right. But wait! A still bigger tree is able to hold the entire class...


A group tree hug...


and Gwyneve and Rebecca do a bit of meditation.


Rebecca, Uriah, Nelson and Donvan explore a downed sequoia, and some of the class poses entwined in the roots of another.



Next stop was Dome Rock, and a lecture on plate tectonics, the planetary properties which determine tectonic activity, and the geologic history of California and the southern Sierra.


Saturday night was photography night for Q4 NEAT, as the comet passed by the Beehive Star Cluster in Cancer. I guided several shots from far out in the meadow on Provia 400 slide film, while Chris Angelos and Jeff tried from the meadow's edge, but were foiled by the early setting against the pines. Jeff was able to hop on our 8" Meade and get off several shots, while Chris got on for only the very last shot as the comet set in the trees. He used Kodak ISO 800 print film and got CD's back from Costco right away. I fiddled with his picture in Photoshop and here's the result. Stay tuned for more pix of this beautiful comet later after I've scanned my own.


Jeff Jolin got this great shot of the comet just a few minutes earlier than Chris's. I post-processed it a bit in Photoshop to bring out the tail.



Sunday morning, I'm getting myself "into the zone" for another breakfast masterpiece. This is followed by an inspection of ancient native american grinding sites next to camp, and study of the sun and sunspots.




ImageQuest conducted a family camping trip to this same location a year earlier. Click here to see my pictures.