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Post Trip Photo Page

For this installment of our field astronomy series, we're going to re-visit a popular spot - the giant Sequoias - largest living things on earth. Giant Sequoia National Monument is high in the Sierras south of Sequoia National Park. We'll be visiting a large grove of Sequoias - the Long Meadow Grove and the "Trail of 100 Giants" - as well as studying the geology of the southern Sierra, and piecing together the story of California's geology and relating it to the formation and surface processes on the other inner planets.

This year, our campsite will be at Quaking Aspen, where we have a beautifully situated group campsite on the edge of a large alpine meadow, with just enough trees for shade, and excellent views to the south and east for study of the summer Milky Way wonders of Scorpius and Sagittarius. Here's a map and here's a map of the campground area. Here's the latest weather forecast.

Friday night we'll set up scopes in the meadow and study the galaxies of the Virgo Cluster, including the giant cannibal galaxy M87, and the nearby showpieces of the Ursa Major cluster of galaxy - the Whirlpool Galaxy, and the M81 + M82 pair. We'll piece together the evolution of galaxies and stars and enjoy learning the secrets of the universe around the evening campfire. Later in the evening the summer Milky Way will rise and we'll study the globular clusters, emission nebulae of the Sagittarius Spiral Arm of our galaxy, and Jupiter. We'll also take a look at Comet Lovejoy, which is high in the evening sky in Draco. It's faint, but you'll have the intellectual (if not visual) drama of seeing an actual comet - not always that you can one is passing through the inner solar system and therefore visible! Kirk Bender will join us with his 12" scope, and we'll also have our own 12" Dob scope for big "light bucket" quality views of these faint galaxies and this comet. Dave McKulle will help too, and have along the 12" StarSplitter scope for deep views of all the galaxies of the Spring sky.

Saturday we'll tour the Long Valley grove of giant Sequoias - the largest living things on earth. And of course, as Santa Cruzan's, we're culturally required to give a big Tree Hug along our hike through the giant trees. Then we'll venture to Dome Rock and discover the history of the Sierra Nevada batholith and prehistoric mountain ranges that occupied this location, and study the Kern River Canyon - the largest drainage in the Sierras and spreading out before our eyes from this great vista point. We may also take the spectacular hike out to the fire lookout perched on a granite spire near Dome Rock. Near the Long Meadow Grove and the Trail of 100 Giants, there's an ancient Native American site of grinding stones which we can study.

Saturday Night: We'll first enjoy a beautiful conjunction, as the slender cresent moon is only 1 degree away from brilliant Venus in the evening sky. Cameras welcome! Next we turn our attention to the star formation regions of the Orion Spiral Arm - the great spiral arm on the edge of which our solar system lives. We'll study the open star clusters of Gemini and Auriga. A campfire lecture will discuss the origin of the universe and the prospects for E.T. out there.

Sunday morning: I'll cook up one of my famous hot breakfasts and we'll take a short hike to a waterfall for a final lecture.

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. Since students cannot get add slips without my approval, I have some leverage in insuring good participants. Once I've insured that we have mature students, then we can focus on having an enjoyable learning experience - these classes are always a lot of fun - we blend learning with enjoyment and this makes for the maximum educational impact.. Join us!

Check out the 2004 Astro 28J class which had a memorable expedition to this location, and the post-trip photo page for that class.

Camper's checklist

The Geological History of California in animations.

Post Trip Highlights

OK, our trip is now part of history! Enjoy the photo page I'm putting together...