Christmas in Virgo - Graze Adventure 2005

Christmas weekend 2005 features the waning moon grazing the two brightest stars in Virgo. I'm planning a road trip to videorecord both of these events. Along the way, I'll enjoy coastal northern California and Oregon for photography, some watercolor painting, and perhaps some fishing or seafood foraging, staying at hostels along the way.

Beta Virginis

On Thursday evening Dec 22 just after midnight the last quarter moon grazes Beta Virginis along an east-west path passing through Marin Headlands National Recreation Area. Here is the prediction sheet. The altitude is low - only 5 degrees - but a 3.6 magnitude star will burn through that haze, especially with a bit of elevation to help. I'm planning on staying at the Golden Gate Hostel, which is on Rodeo Lagoon and close to the graze path. Here's more on the hostel. To get a clear view to the east where the moon will rise just before the graze, I'll need to get atop one of the many nearby hills. The profile shows two good tracks which promise many events. Because the cusp angle is only 5 degrees, I'm going to aim for the southernmost flat area on the profile, on a track 0.4 miles south of the predicted limit, since this is on the trailing side of the moon and will be about 8-9 degrees from the cusp. One choice for setup appears to be along Wolf Ridge, just on the other side of Rodeo Llagoon and the hostel. I recall years ago driving along this road near the old military barracks shown along the north shore of the lagoon, but I haven't driven up Wolf Ridge and am not sure it isn't gated down below. If I can go as far as the pavement ends, I'll have a flat view to the horizon and the moon at the cross on the map, where the ridge road goes from paved to dirt and may have a gate. This spot is at 640 ft elevation and has a horizon of 1-2 degrees, well below the moon at 5.5 degrees. Also, with the main action happening after mid-graze, the altitude will be a tad higher. It's at track=0.59mi south. The hilltop another mile on the dirt road is at track=0.49 south. This is still not ideal, missing the best flat spots on the trailing side but clipping the top of the second peak at least. The best spot is here, at 0.21mi south, if the dirt road is accessible. Just as ideal, and almost certainly accessible, is this residential cul de sac above Sausalito at track=0.14 mi south, at 1000 ft elevation.


Christmas morning is the Spica graze - the most spectacular graze in terms of brightness, moon, dark sky, for anywhere in 2005. The path goes from southwestern Washington, across Oregon and eastern Nevada. I plan to try it from southeastern Oregon. I'll have more later, but for now it looks like I'll be teaming up with Derek Breit, who has put together his own page on this graze. The lunar profile from southeastern Oregon looks pretty nice near the edge of path