Occultation by Asterope - Aug 26, 2005

This was one of the better asteroid occultations of the year for California. Not particularly bright (11.9 star, 11.5 combined image), but the path had good predicted accuracy and a 17 second predicted duration at good altitude in a moon-less sky. The northern limit passed through the Santa Cruz Mountains slanting steeply southeast, which made getting deep into the path a bit of a drive. I'd thought of perhaps driving to the central Big Sur area and also participate in the Image Quest Morro Bay photo workshop or even jump into the swim for the Santa Barbara Triathlon. But when the time came, I was just plain beat... at the end of two days at Cabrillo of pre-Fall semester meetings and working hard getting materials together. Also, I was already scheduled for a long drive south the following (Labor Day) weekend. So, I decided instead to just stay local. I figured my odds were better than 50/50 and I chose the deepest location inside the predicted path that was still in the Santa Cruz area.

Then the adventure began... I arrived at our Coast Road Resevoir observing site 50 minutes before the event, after a late start. Got everything set up and then discovered in my tired going-thru-the-motions packing, I had forgotten the finder charts. Doomed! Nothing to do but pack up and head home. Did it in a hurry and thought there might be a chance to get it visually from my driveway as I drove home. Realized on the drive that there was no way I'd find the star in downtown Santa Cruz or anywhere nearby. But I got home quickly, decided to grab the charts and immediately drive back out and figure I might have a chance. When I got to the city dump turnoff, I was out of time and I turned in, drove up a half mile, and set up. Familiarity paid off and in just 10 minutes I had assembled the 10" LX200, did a 2-star alignment, and migrated my way to the target star. The field was easy to identify and make positive ID on the star. Limiting magnitude visually was about 12.5. I did not have time to get the video equipment set up (no surprise) and so did the event visually. Watched from 5:15:15 to 5:18:30UT with no events longer than a small fraction of a second - a miss. Minutes later, a car pulled up. I was just outside the gate to the landfill, and there's a small methane-powered powerplant there. The owner, a nice woman, explained the landfill generates enough methane to generate 800 KW of continuous power, which amazed me. All from rotting old washing machines and avacado-green sofas?? She snapped the picture at left, which shows the Sagittarius star cloud where the occultation happened. Antares is just left of the scope's fork. I'm the "man with no face" here.

The occultation report is here. From other observer reports, it looks like the path shifted almost 1 path width south.