Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hike 2016.044 -- Mt Wilson and Mt Lowe

Hiked Saturday, September 24. This was my second-to-last hike before my extended hiatus. The night before, one of my facebook feeds (for the Cosmic Cafe, I think, but it might have been for Mount Wilson Observatory) announced that the 60" telescope would be open for some daytime viewing of Venus.

Well, I've seen Venus plenty of times through a telescope, and I've looked through the 60" telescope a few times, as well. But I hadn't seen Venus in daylight through the 60", and definitely not for free.

So I drove on up there, figuring to take a peek or two, then do a short hike at nearby Mount Lowe.

No problem driving up. Parked, and passed by the 150' solar telescope on the way to the 60" dome. Shot a few photos with the sun "eclipsed" behind the tower, just to get the halo effect. Later, I got a shot of the moon, adjacent to the solar telescope's dome. But, in the meantime, I just continued on my way to the 60" telescope.
As it turned out, seeing on Mt. Wilson was terrible. That meant it wasn't even possible to get the "disc" of Venus in focus. It was just a featureless blob that, on occasion, you could make out the fact that the disc was not circular, but in a gibbous phase (more than half, less than full). That's a function of the geometry between earth, sun, and Venus. At the time, Venus was more distant from us than the sun, but at enough of an angle that part of the night side of the planet was also visible to us.
Incidentally, Venus is extremely bright as seen from earth. That's a function of the highly reflective clouds that surround the planet. What that brightness means is that, often, at night, the planet is so bright that it's hard to see even see that phase. That's why daytime viewing held so much promise. The planet is easily bright enough to see during the daytime, while the brighter sky makes it easier to discern the planet's rim, and to make out its phase.
After my short view, I headed back down to the Mt. Lowe Trailhead. It's a dirt road, 2N50, which starts basically where Red Box Road reaches the crest so that you can see back into the LA Basin, and the road (if you're driving up) begins heading mostly due east, towards Mt Wilson's summit.
It's really a nice view, with steep canyons before you and the Basin stretching out in the distance. The road's wide, and historic. It was part of that whole Mt Lowe / Echo Mountain development from the early years of the 20th Century. Apparently, in 1942, the U.S. Forest Service built a tunnel through some of these mountains for the access road.
Shortly after poking back out of the tunnel, you have a choice. Going straight on the wide road is the long way around Mt. Lowe, and could eventually (after a long detour) take you to Inspiration Point. Right would take you up to San Gabriel Peak, and, not far past that, Mount Disappointment.

Left, however, takes you up to Mt. Lowe. That was my goal for the day.
Nice views down the Arroyo Seco on this trail, which parallels the dirt road for a while, before looping back towards Mt. Lowe. It reaches a saddle that could also be used to access Mt. Markham, though I have never tried what looks like a pretty steep route there. I have been to Mt. Lowe by this way several times, however.b
Nice views pretty much all around from this summit. It's a relatively barren summit, which contributes to the clear views.

Returned the way I came, then returned to Mt. Wilson for another try at Venus. It was higher in the sky, now, which meant looking through less atmosphere, which could potentially lead to better views. in practice, unfortunately, the view remained terrible Oh, well. It was still something that got me out of the house for some hiking and astronomy, and that's hard to beat!

Maybe 3-4 miles for the day. Sure helped with achieving my fitbit goal!

No comments:

Post a Comment