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Yep Dinosaur Point will be open Saturday night the 21st for stargazing and general frivolity. The forecast looks just fine.

People have all manner of good choices for that night. The highly genial Santa Cruz gang is heading to the west side of the Pinnacles Saturday night as well. At both sites, telescopes, cameras, all kinds of gear are welcome.

Observing Reports / Dinosaur Point rides again
« on: October 16, 2017, 12:46:28 AM »
Saturday night, the 14th, we started another observing season at Dinosaur Point. Dino is good from October to March, when the winds let up whistling thru Pacheco Pass.

4 of us where there. Joe Bob Jardine brought his Albert Highe-made 20”, Peter Natscher had his 16”, Dave Cooper brought his trusty refractor, and I brought Felix, my 11” f/4.5 Dobs made by Discovery Telescopes.

It was a beautiful night, with 6.2 limiting magnitude for both Bob and me. Seeing was good, 4/5. Smoke really wasn’t much of a factor at all. We could see more of a low light dome over to ENE, toward Santa Nella, than we’re used to there. And stars weren’t as bright along the southern horizon as they can be at Dinosaur Point. Still a respectable night full of stars.

I looked at a range of objects, from two little galaxies for starters, and the always fascinating Ring Nebula and a sparkly M13, to ngc 253 in Sculptor for dessert at midnight. That big galaxy is as complex and awesome as ever. It’s held up its looks since CalStar, in fact.

Next Saturday, the 21st, weather permitting, we’ll be opening up Dinosaur Point again for observing. So get off your butt, leave this glowing screen behind, and come out to a quality darksky site. Precisely what TAC is all about.

Observing Intents / Dinosaur Point Saturday night, 14 October
« on: October 09, 2017, 08:19:06 PM »
Yep we're set to observe at Dinosaur Point. We definitely have one Gatekeeper there Saturday night, me.
If you don't have these memorized, please look over the regs. As much as any place, we're there as guests. That said, the rangers like us and are glad we're coming back.
Good directions are on our Observing Sites Dino page -,29.0.html
Do get there before sunset if you want to get in!
Use Policy
Dinosaur Point is behind a locked gate. Access is only on announced nights. A Gatekeeper must make reservation, be present at all times, and escort observers through the gate.

Upon arriving at Dino's parking area, currently you arrive at another temporary gate at the bottom of the hill that's set up for the daytime boaters inspection. There, you will be asked by a CA Parks ranger to pay the $10 CA Parks use fee, or show your CA Parks annual pass in order to proceed to the parking area.
General rules for using Dinosaur Point
  1.. Pay the day-use fee.
   1a .. Please write "Stargazing" in big letters on the envelope we put in the iron ranger, to make sure the money goes to the right place.
  2.. Access to Dinosaur Point after dark is by reservation only. Only Gatekeepers can call the rangers and make reservations.
   a. Send observing requests and questions to DinoGatekeepers at yahoogroups dot com.
   b. Do not post OI's for Dinosaur Point until a Gatekeeper has announced it is available, and his arrival and departure times.

  3.. At least one Gatekeeper must always be present.
  4.. Everyone must be escorted out by a Gatekeeper.
  5.. Observers are not allowed to stay overnight.
  6.. Observers must arrive before sunset.
  7.. Locate the Gatekeeper(s) and introduce yourself when you arrive. Confirm your departure time.
  8.. Be prepared to leave on time or wait for the next scheduled escort to the gate.
         When you are ready to leave, proceed to the SW corner of the parking lot and wait there. At the scheduled time, a Gatekeeper will escort you out.
  9.. Leave the park as you found it. Make sure your area is clean.
 10.. Absolutely no boats allowed in the parking lot after dark.
 11.. No overnight camping.
 12.. Do not call the emergency number posted on the gate unless you are reporting an emergency. The ranger you get out of bed won't arrive for over an hour. Get a Gatekeeper to escort you out.
 13.. If you bring guests, you must ensure that they follow all these rules and procedures.

TAC Visual / Dinosaur Point is on again for the fall and winter
« on: October 05, 2017, 03:28:05 PM »
Just, I mean just, got a prompt email reply from Ranger Nathan at Five Rivers. Our lock is intact on the gate, yes.

New Moon in October is nicely cooperative, being on Thursday the 19th. The weekend before and after both have friendly moontimes. So weather permitting, we'll be opening up the lot for stargazing. I'm figuring on being there both Saturdays, or Sundays if that works better.

Watch the OI page for announcements, well ahead of the nights we'll be there. Also, if you want to observe at Dinosaur Point on a night that isn't mentioned, send an email to <> and we'll see if a Gatekeeper can make it that night.

Check out the Observing Sites page for Dino for details. It's current. <,29.0.html>
And do remember you have to get there well before sundown to get in.

Your devoted site liaison,

Observing Reports / CalStar XVIII, last week
« on: September 30, 2017, 09:18:42 PM »
It’s about time someone documented what a gas CalStar was, all over again. People who know each other way too well, low levels of banter, good food getting passed around. Chez Dan going on once again, with Dan getting lots of skilled help.

Clear night skies, with seeing consistently on the plus side of 4/5, very good, and limiting magnitude at least 6.2 every night. Lots of stars, convincing Milky Way.

The observing highlight thru Johannes, my scope, was Saturn with 6 moons and a clear Cassini Division. Titan was off to the west; Dione, Tethys and Rhea were in a lovely diagonal line just to the NE of Saturn. Enceladus was peeking thru, opposite to Rhea, ca 50% of the time. Then Iapetus was on its bright side, and right where it was supposed to be. I collared several people to make ‘em come look.

S&T has Jupiter and Saturn moons applets that are consistenly accurate.

Over the years I have seen Hyperion and Mimas, not often at all, but never seen 6 moons in the same view. Johannes is an Albert Highe-made 13" f/4.5 grab and go scope. Was using a 24mm Panoptic, 16mm UO Koenig, 9 and 7mm type 6 Naglers. That view of Saturn was with the 7mm, at 212x. It’s still floating around in my head, a week later.

Did mooch some excellent views thru the weekend. Gortatowsky’s 22” was showing off a quasar I’d never heard of, on some KUV list, bright and obvious in that scope and 3.4 billion lightyears from here. Marko showed easily the most spectacular view I’ve ever seen of the Eagle Nebula, M16. Details and clumps for days.

Gottlieb shared a view of a globular cluster orbiting around M31, except it’s 9 degrees in our sky away from the disk of M31. Something like 400,000 lightyears from the main body of the galaxy; that’s 4x the width of the main disk of our galaxy.

This was the 18th year we’ve gathered the tribes on the first New Moon after Labor Day. This year I sat down and counted 28 people I know by sight and name. That said, there was some 100 people there, from all over the state. Big range of scopes and setups. If I mention people I was delighted to see and hang out with, I’ll miss someone important. Gotta say though, it was a delight to see those two astrobabes, Jane Smith and Mars, return to the CalStar fold. Good eggs, experienced observers and heaps of fun to be with. Jane was showing off 7789, the Magnificent Cluster, also Caroline’s Cluster, in her very snazzy and lanky truss-tube 16”.

And it was cool that Jennifer and Larry, who were the camp hosts our first 2 years at Whiisssper Canyon, came back this year just to hang out with their newish astrobuddies.

Big fun all around. Charlie Wicks, our very own Potentate, gets far more credit than he’s letting on for his vast, patient work in continuing to find us a place to throw this binge.

Found a good peaceful spot well within the totality band, a wide double turnout on hwy 26 NW of Prineville, just on the south edge of the Crooked River Nat'l Grasslands. Good for 1:30 of totality. At 7 am there was me and a young woman who'd slept in her car; there were around 20 of us there by the time things got serious.

Serious indeed. I'm still soaking in what I saw. Rozerman wrote up a succinct report, which more or less captures what I saw - "Temperature drop of 20 degrees. High contrast double shadows of everything. Twisted asymetric Corona. Two naked eye prominences at 12:00 and 3:00. Brilliant diamond ring at 3rd contact."

There were those cool sun crescents all under the trees, those I'd seen before. And like a lot of us, I've read a lot about total solar eclipses all my life. Cripes, the first time I heard about this 2017 eclipse, I was just around 6, 60 years ago!

It did get chilly, I went and put a hoodie on. We were on a rise, so as totality approached, we could see the big shadow of the Moon swoop up along the grasslands from the west. Fwoo. That I'd been told to expect.

But when that last thin stripe of the Sun disappeared, I was completely caught off guard. Instead of that bright Sun that's there even in a big partial, there was a very black round disk where the Sun had just been. Searched for a full day afterward for a descriptor, came up with "fucking arcane." Not believable.

What I saw was a corona close around the Sun, with several spikes at different angles that looked like broad-based diffraction spikes in a telescope. No wonder it got named "crown." Like Wagner, I did note that there weren't the spread-out wings that show in some totals. Off the eastern edge, I did see one extended piece of corona that shimmered.

There was a brilliant prominence at 3 o'clock, that was garnet-colored! And there was another one to 1 o'clock. Those would have been at around 210 and 280 degrees on the sky. And the Sun first reappeared in a very bright point, what Rozer named as that brilliant diamond ring at 3rd contact.

When I first learned, swear 60 years ago, that the next total eclipse in our part of the world would be in 2017, that was scifi future, colonies on the Moon, flying cars. I do remember deciding at the time that I might not have to memorize the date, it might come up.

Like Rozer, I'm glad this is finally done with. Still, it was so completely worth the trip. Thoroughly unforgettable.

Observing Intents / CalStar continues to ride again
« on: July 10, 2017, 10:41:58 PM »
DDK will be there with bells on, Thursday to Sunday. All praise to our glorious and diplomatic Potentate.

Observing Reports / Peak 18 June, outreach night, good and dark
« on: June 28, 2017, 09:20:09 PM »
Sunday night the 18th was fun at the SW lot. Turned out to be primarily for outreach, in a good way. There were plenty of stars, around 6.0 LM thru most of the night, with seeing at least good, 4/5, occasionally going to excellent.

Just after sunset, the two other cars in the lot had their occupants amble down off the Peak, a couple and a family. They were all thrilled and intrigued to be looking at Saturn and Jupiter and their moons. Just can’t miss with Saturn.

The SW lot is good for genial visitors. Around 10, this young woman showed up, whom David the weekend ranger had sent along from the main lot, “Yeah, there’s this guy up there with a telescope, he seems very friendly.” The kid went to the high school where Jo taught for 23 years, knows several of Jo’s buddies. She stuck around till 1 am, was fascinated with the sky and got the cook’s tour.

Reminded me of when Stacy Jo McDermott started showing up. She mentioned all these guys on dark hilltops, way out of town, being polite and reliably respectful. That’s us TACos.

For the person with the telescope, Saturn showed off 5 and maybe 6 moons. Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys and Encedalus were all there. Hyperion was where it was charted on my little Saturn phone app, but there were other candidates also in the same area.

There were a bunch of meteors after 1 am in the east of Pegasus, along what was the bottom edge of the Great Square. Two were bright and head-on, one of those had a double flash. At least 7 bright brief ones. Don’t know of a meteor shower that was happening that night, but they sure showed a pattern.

It was warm all night, around 70F. A screech owl was making good music. Looked at 7331 and M31 and friends for dessert before packing up.
Wasn’t able to get out last weekend, so am very glad to have gotten out to the Peak last Sunday week. It was a fun dark night.

Observing Reports / 24 May Pinnacles, caught that supernova
« on: June 20, 2017, 09:49:37 PM »
Just want to log that I did get to see the supernova in ngc 6946, sn2017eaw.
Partly to thank Steve Gottlieb for the timely prompt. And partly to go about the wonder of seeing a supernova. This one was showing at about 13.0 magnitude, so not hard to see in a medium-sized scope.

This was from the Pinnacles with Johannes, my 13" Albert Highe-built grab and go scope. Was a nice night, limiting magnitude 6.2, seeing good 4/5. Now here's this thing showing as bright in the scope as several of the foreground stars, which would be in our arm of the Milky Way, a few hundred lightyears away. 6946 is 15 million lightyears away, at least 20,000 times more distant. Throw in the inverse-square law, and you get the idea that one of these things really puts out as much energy as its whole host galaxy.

6946 is a mondo face-on galaxy, always worth the trip, along with its neighbor, 6939, a bright spangly open cluster, some 4,000 lightyears away, just for comparison.

That night I got to see Omega Centauri well above the horizon. It was vast, imposing and overwhelming in the 9mm at 165x.
Also took a downtown Virgo tour. And Jupiter was fancy, with 2 brown barges in the NEB, and a sharp fat GRS with round distince edges.
Had the coyotes and the crickets for company. Good sound field.

Observing Intents / Peak SW lot stargazing!
« on: June 18, 2017, 04:02:26 PM »
Back to the ole well-regarded longtime default spot.

We've had a couple dark nights with good stars and a visible Milky Way here in Salinas. Time to head for the dark hills. Will be there well before sunset.

Observing Intents / Pinnacles for supernova hunting
« on: May 23, 2017, 04:49:19 PM »
Will be at that open lot well by sunset. Just spent a pleasant week in Philly and DC, would yes like to see any stars.
This is tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th.

Observing Reports / New Moon April, Peak and Pinnacles
« on: April 27, 2017, 06:08:03 PM »
Saturday night the 22nd I hit the SW lot at the Peak for observing. Between the Pinnacles and Dinosaur Point, I’d gotten distracted and away from the Peak; last time I was up there was June. This past weekend it was amazingly green everywhere, with lupines blooming across the park.

Got to visit with Derek the cool ranger, with his wife Hali and their two kids, Logan and Penelope. Lovely happy family. Also while hanging out around the Observatory, got to see Ron Dammann and Rob Hawley who are both flourishing to all appearances.

There were campers and astro visitors all over the park, but back at the SW lot it stayed quiet. High clouds played tag with the low fog that comes out of the little valley there around Carmen’s Trail. Did get more than a couple hours of decent skies though, with 5.8 limiting magnitude for a stretch.

Did an eye candy tour, featuring Jupiter with some fancy equatorial bands. The seeing was good enough to let the 4 Galilean moons show little disks. Saw M5 for the first time this year. Stared and gawked at M51, the Leo Trio, caught Cor Caroli and 24 Com for color.

Some time around 11, I had two excellent visitors, this little 6-year old Jack and his mom. Jack got to see Jupiter and M3, and showed off to his mama where the North Star is. Sharp kid.

Then last night, Wednesday, I headed to the Pinnacles for precisely New Moon. There were dense low dark curdly clouds over the whole sky at sunset, stayed that way till 8:50. Looked very skunking-like. A couple stars peeped thru after 9, then the whole sky opened up. For about an hour. Swear it was fun watching those stars come out in the quiet, with crickets and peepers and a low bass wind. Far as I could tell, I had the western half of that entire national park to myself.

Had serious detail on Jupiter, best in a long while. Great Red Spot, all kinds of festoons and curlicues along the main bands.
Still have all kinds of spring galaxies to hunt down. More of this.

Observing Intents / Pinnacles Wednesday night the 26th
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:27:46 PM »
Will be set up by the visitors center. Sure like our new national park.

Observing Intents / SW lot for Saturday fun, yes the 22nd
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:26:02 PM »
Haven't been to the Peak in way too long. Time to hit the old default spot.

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