Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Sky's the Limit

Did some astronomy outreach at Sky's the Limit, a privately owned but open to the public spot of land, just north of the North Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. That's the entrance that's just south of Twentynine Palms. They frequently do public observing events here.

Compared to the Mojave Preserve, Sky's the Limit is not very dark. But it's plenty dark compared to most places closer to Los Angeles.
I brought my 8" dob, which my wife found at a thrift store for $200. Honestly, I think we're pretty much the best folks to have bought it. If a pure newbie bought it, they'd probably not know how to make it functional. Not that they're super-sophisticated, but it does take a little bit of experience (or reading) to know how to collimate the mirrors for effective observation. Knowing how to use a Telrad also helps, if you want to be able to point it accurately.
From Sky's the Limit, I showed Jupiter, Omega Centauri, Venus, the Leo Trio of galaxies, the M81/M82 pair of galaxies, M 4, Antares, M13, M57, Albireo, and Alcor and Mizar. I also saw M51, but I don't think I got anyone else to look at that. Oh, and a few people saw Saturn, very low on the horizon.
Not that many people looked through my telescope. I'd roughly estimate maybe 25 people. But those who did stop by got a really quick look at a wide range of objects. Nice thing about a Dob and Telrad is the ease with which I can swing around to these favorite objects of mine. And the folks who spoke to me seemed genuinely excited and grateful for the chance to see these objects.

This was my third outreach event with the new dob. I did an event at a school in Pasadena, and another event up at Mount Wilson. I managed to see the Leo Trio there, too. But it was definitely better at Sky's the Limit.

After my outreach, I drove into the park, wanting to get some Joshua Tree and Milky Way shots. Unfortunately, the rising moon, even before it broke the horizon, was already lighting up the sky.

All shots were with my Nikon D3400, ISO 1600, 11-20mm Tokina lens at f/2.8. First and second shots were identical, except I painted the foreground with my little LED flashlight. Jupiter is the bright object, and Scorpius is prominent in that shot. The third shot, I moved a bit, and placed the Joshua Tree on the opposite side of the frame. It's pointed towards Cyngnus.

Last two shots were from the Mount Wilson event. That one was also a lot of fun.

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