Expedition to Barcroft Laboratory - Sept 17-20, 2009

This is my second trip, signing on with the Bay Area astronomy groups and their annual pilgrimage. This alpine tundra island is awesomely stark and beautiful site for doing astronomy, and biology, and has become important in monitoring global climate change and its effects on sensitive biosytems. I shared the 3 days here with biologists from the University of California, and with other astronomers. The trip began.....poorly. I was distracted and frustrated with a bad day of shepherding my savings and retirement money through a randomly malevolent day in the stock market, a profitable day turned relentlessly sour despite great economic reports in early morning- from the moment I woke up to the moment I closed the clamshell on my laptop. I had planned to leave at 1pm sharp. But it was 4pm before I actually left the Santa Cruz city limits. Forgot my laptop mouse, even forgot my wallet (which I remembered and of course HAD to return for). At least I had good company, having picked up an assortment of books on tape on philosophy, on Mahler, and John McPhee's classic "Basin and Range". Started with the philosophy books as I felt I needed to GET PHILOSOPHICAL after my bad start to the day. Well, didn't work - despite the fact that I believe and understand how centrally important philosophy is to a good life, these guys seem endlessly preoccupied with how-many-angels-can-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin level concerns, and what so-and-so long-dead philosopher said. As opposed to actually putting forth valuable insights and justifying them Sheesh!. So - 3 down, 3 to go and I was only an hour into the trip. Next was "Basin and Range". THIS was the book I'd hoped for, and I happily left the world of insanity behind and settled into one of my little pleasures - long drives through open spaces listening to interesting books on tape. This drive.... was longer than it needed to be. In my addled state, I never looked at the map, and since I had long ago decided that it was easiest to get to Lone Pine via the southern route through Bakersfield and Mojave, I assumed it was still true of Big Pine - turnoff to the White Mountains, 40 miles further north. No, I could've gone through Yosemite and the Long Valley caldera, instead of Hwy 101 and the central valley, and saved an hour at least. It suddenly struck me that this might be true - in San Ardo, south of King City. I pulled over and inspected the map. Sigh, too late to turn back. "Basin and Range" was excellent in prose and in content, and I arrived at Grandview campground at 1:15am. Too late to do astronomy. But I ended up in a micro group of LA astronomy people, whom I visited with the next morning.


notes to self for further writing: Dennis, on 18" dob shot, Ralph's mouse, MRI people on brain effects, sheep placentas. George from Oakland. Tri-Valley makes arrangements. Geology groups come too, just left as I arrived on Friday. Dorrie is the on-site manager.



All telescopic images were done with the 8" f/4 Schmidt Newtonian, with SBIG ST4000xcm CCD camera at prime focus.

Friday night imaging: Clouds came in in the late afternoon and made for challenges in early evening Sagittarius area photography. But I did get 4 10 minute shots between 'em. The clouds made for dramatic wide angle shots with the Nikon D40, as you'll see before. All images below were stacked in Registax 5, processed in Photoshop CS2, and used Neil Carboni's "Astronomy Tools" actions.

First shot - Trifid Nebula 4x10min, CCDOPS5 sRGB+gamma colorization, stacked in Registax 5, Photoshop CS2 and Carboni "Astronomy Tools" actions; curves, saturation, 'space noise reduction', 'make stars smaller', 'enhance DSO', 'local contrast enhance', unsharp masking, crop, jpg.

The Elephant Trunk and associated Mu Cephei emission region. 7x10min stack, CCDOPS5, sRGB+gamma color, Registax 5, Photoshop CS2

Comet Christensen. Turned out to be really boring, so I just did 2x10min on it.

The Pelican Nebula in Cygnus. 5x10min stack. Didn't get the focus quite right, but the black skies really helped bring out this faint nebula.

Unfortunately, I also got another medical adventure out of the trip. Something got me up there. Don't know what it was, but Saturday when I came down from Barcroft Peak and removed my boots, I saw a red swollen area at the top of my socks, which looks like it might be a spider bite (2 marks) and my leg has continued to swell up and get worse... Anyone got a clue?? I've never been attacked by a spider. It would've happened early Saturday morning at Grandview campground, 8600 ft elevation. Web search shows the dreaded Desert Brown Recluse does range in the Mojave up about to where I was. Doc says it's probably not a brown recluse or I'd be much worse already. If it WAS, well, there's not much they can do. Really reassuring, yeah. If it's not a brown recluse then is should begin to improve after 4 days. It's been 4 days and it might be a bit better today than yesterday (but still much worse than the picture below, shot on day 2).