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Messages - DDK

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TAC Visual / Re: Lake Sonoma vs Dino Point vs Pinnacles
« on: October 19, 2017, 06:39:23 PM »
Dan, why say vs? The better conjunction here is or.
I've been to all 3 places you mention, and they're all fine observing sites. You can just pick according to your mood. Especially driving mood in this case, living in Mill Valley.

And please let's not get off into squirrelmeters on this thread, and you know I mean it, Marko.
Plus, limiting magnitude counts, while taking a little effort, more than pointing upward, have a built-in reliability.
And those darksky maps are hooey, many of them are generated in Italy and based on population numbers, not at all on actual conditions.

Have been to your default spot, Lake Sonoma, once. It was dark and lovely. Angie and Doug Traeger, Steve Gottlieb and Carter Scholz were all there that night. Each of them has praised that spot over years. You have quite serious skies off to the West there, as you know.

Just did a quick scan of my observing logs, and I've been to Dinosaur Point over 3 dozen times since 2001. Conditions can be excellent there. Did a whole exploration of the Fornax Cluster there, where you need a good southern sky. Also did a good part of a serious mini-project at Dinosaur Point, combing the Bowl of the Dipper for galaxies. Those little Ursa Major galaxies take a good sky to tease out. And it's gorgeous there along San Luis Reservoir.

The Pinnacles also is a spectacular area. I'd mentioned to you that the east side would be a very long drive from Mill Valley. We have a choice of 3 observing spots on the west side, all with various strengths, I've observed at all 3 repeatedly, with fine results.

You want numbers? Both at Dinosaur Point and at Pinnacles, I've seen limiting magnitudes of 6.5. That's world class dark, up there with Lassen and Anderson Mesa south of Flagstaff. I've only gotten 6.6 twice, from Fremont Peak on nights when the marine layer was covering the towns. Now there's a selection effect there, as I've been to the Peak more than anywhere else.

So rather than vs I'd say plus. Of course every night is different, but that's part of the fun.
Seriously though Smiley, if I lived in Mill Valley I'd haunt Lake Sonoma and forget all those freeways to the south.

Observing Reports / Re: OR from Pinnacles 10/14
« on: October 18, 2017, 04:33:51 PM »
Those galaxies in the 507 cluster average some 220 million lightyears from here, so about 4 times farther away than the Virgo Cluster. Do pack a lunch.

Observing Reports / Re: OR from Pinnacles 10/14
« on: October 18, 2017, 01:42:01 PM »
Dude, what a night you had. 2 supernovae. And the 507 cluster in Perseus is wonderful. Once upon a time (yeah like 17 years ago) in front of the observatory at the Peak, those scads of galaxies were my first view of things outside of our Virgo Supercluster. As you know they're in the Pisces-Perseus Supercluster,

Hicksons! HGC 10 being right outside the main group of the 507 cluster, I've wondered if they're in the same group. 542 you described in your 20" as vS, eF, no kidding, it was Did Not Find for me in Uncle Albert my then 16" at CalStar 3 years ago. Good scope you have, that sucker is 1.0 by 0.2 arcminutes, vMag 14.7. Urk. There's aperture winning for you.

Hickson 16 I stumbled onto, 10 years ago at Dinosaur Point with Felix my 11". Funny sequence - "Interesting, peanut shape, bright core in each lobe, eastern core brighter (a star?). Nope, another galaxy ..." Hm, peanut-shaped galaxy wait no another galaxy wait a Hickson Cluster! Got the next two a month later, how I missed them that night I cannot tell you. Oh and notably, that next time out was New Year's Day '08 at the Peak on an astro-celebration with Gottlieb the Astro Animal.

Very fun report, McCarthy, thanks buddy!

Observing Reports / Re: Dinosaur Point rides again
« on: October 17, 2017, 06:01:04 PM »
Now I oughta give out details about one of those little galaxies I started with on Saturday night. As stated, this was in Felix, my 11", now using a 9mm Nagler. NGC 6482 was in a close set of fairly bright stars (turned out to be 12th magnitude), where one wouldn’t come to focus. It had a very compact round halo. What I thought was a bright stellar core is in fact an accurately superimposed foreground star, per Sky Atlas Companion. It was in fact close to those neighbors in brightness, being mag 13, per Luginbuhl and Skiff's truly excellent Observing Guide.

a) I'm pretty sure I've never seen a galaxy in a field like that before, with a set of fairly equal fairly bright stars, it being the one that wouldn't focus. And b) here's one more instance where observing guides like SAC and L&S can be invaluable right on site.

Dino - I gotta mention every time, you need to get there by sunset in order to get in.

The Dinosaur Point regs were just posted last week in that OI. Right here -,868.0.html

Forget all those excuses. Go to Pinnacles or Dinosaur Point or Coe or the Peak this coming weekend. As my Daddy used to say, "Go outside, get some of the stink blown off."

Come to think of it, Charlie Wicks was asking about the Peak for this New Moon, and here a newish guy Kai and friends went to Coe last weekend. So TAC and SCAC are in fact working on inhabiting the hilltops.

And you can reliably go the Peak on a dark night and meet someone observing who never heard of any of our groups.

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 / Re: Dinosaur Point rides again
« on: October 16, 2017, 01:52:33 PM »
Smiley, lemme say out loud if I were living in Mill Valley, I woiuld definitely opt for Lake Sonoma!
That said, those of us who live inside an hour from Dinosaur Point are headed there Saturday night. Yes the 21st.

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 / Re: Santa Cruz Astronomy Club at Pinnacles West
« on: October 16, 2017, 12:42:58 AM »
That gate at the Pinnacles swings shut at 8 pm, rather than sunset.

It's at Dinosaur Point that you have to be there by sunset.

TAC Visual / Re: Dinosaur Point is on again for the fall and winter
« on: October 11, 2017, 05:39:37 PM »
You're right, Smiley, we don't want to be there in the morning. But Casa de Fruta is right down the hill, you could bunk at Casa de Motel.

Observing Intents / Re: Dinosaur Point Saturday night, 14 October
« on: October 10, 2017, 09:29:01 PM »
And for a lot of non-grizzled TACos such as Wes Chang, let it be said that Dinosaur Point has good horizons, especially to the South, and the skies can get good and dark there, serious big-kid dark. And it's one of the prettiest stargazing spots around.

TAC Visual / Re: Dinosaur Point is on again for the fall and winter
« on: October 10, 2017, 06:56:19 PM »
And in the words of Canis Australis, Paul Lefevre, the only way to find out what the conditions are like on a hllltop is to go there and see.

And please do note the OI for Saturday night. Dinosaur Point will be open for observing, starting a new season.

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.

Observing Reports / Re: CalStar XVIII, last week
« on: October 06, 2017, 04:52:22 PM »
Here's the bona fide followup on our very own orbital launch. This is from Jonathan McDowell's Space Report #741. He's the astrophysicist who keeps thorough track of space launches.

"A ULA Atlas 5 placed an NRO satellite in highly elliptical orbit on Sep 24. The satellite is thought to host a signals intelligence payload (possibly codenamed RAVEN) and the HEO-4 missile early warning package. The Centaur stage was deorbited after one revolution."

Reports of the launch failing were exaggerated.

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