Morning hike up Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing with Eddie. Cool overcast morning. Eddie had a good time. After the hike went for a bike ride to the Indian Canyons toll booth. I've just refurbished my road bike after not riding for over ten years. Felt really good to be cycling again but i've a ways to go to build up my stamina.
Nice Christmas day hike up the Shannon trail, over Smoketree peak, across to the foot of the Wildhorse trail, then back and down the Shannon. A few other people out on the trails today. Also a little blue camping tent was set up a hundred yards or so east of the Wildhorse junction. I've never actually seen anyone camping up here before.
Quick Christmas Eve session from about 11:30pm to midnight with the TV76. Skies not great. First time using my new Nagler 4.8mm eyepiece. Eye relief very short but i can just see the full field if i press my eye into the eyecup. Seems very sharp. Nice view of the Orion nebula. Also very nice view of Saturn. I think the best i've ever seen it with some light banding visible across the planet's disk. No sign of Santa.
Hiked up Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing. Beautiful warm clear day.
Updated my new gleanings page this morning!
Short hike up Cahuilla canyon to my Cahuilla geocache with Eddie.
Hiked from Rimrocks to Eagle canyon and back with Eddie. Bit cooler today than recent hikes.
Hiked the south Lykken trail with Eddie to the vista point. We then walked up the canyon a bit just because it was such a nice day.
Bright sunny morning but still a steady breeze. Departed camp about 8:45am. Drove through Arroyo Salado camp (vacant), Ella wash, Palo Verde wash. Turned around at the Rabbit peak trailhead along S-22. Hardly any wind in the Ella/Palo Verde wash area. Probably should have camped there instead of Truckhaven. On the drive home noticed there were whitecaps on the Salton sea. Must be more wind than i thought! Arrived home about 11:45am.
Depart home about 12:40pm headed for the Anza-Borrego desert. Arrive Truckhaven site about 2:10pm. Around 3pm had 5 dirt bikes drive by my camp then went down a wash that is not open to vehicle traffic. Shortly thereafter the ranger patrol plane was circling overhead. Then a couple of park rangers drove by. Seems they might actually have caught the bikers! Hurray! A bit more excitement than usual along the Truckhaven trail. Set up my new REI Half Dome 2 tent for the first time. Not bad. Here is a picture of my camp just before sunset. Steady wind all afternoon and evening. Not really that bad but enough to prevent me from setting up telescope. Sunset at 4:28pm with the temp about 66° Noodles for dinner. Very pretty crescent moon and bright Venus in the west after sunset. Moon between the stars Nunki and Ascella in the handle of the Sagittarius teapot. Retreated to the tent at 7pm. Lots more room in the tent than the tentcot. Typing this on my laptop. Even have my little USB Christmas tree! Quite nice and cozy. Wind blew all night but tent was very comfortable.
Up and down the Araby trail with Eddie. Bit windy..
Back up Cahuilla canyon. This time to release the ants i collected on Sunday. Here is a pre-release picture of the ants in transportation vessel, otherwise known as Tupperware.
Nice hike up Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing with Wen and Eddie. Beautiful day. Collected some ants to start a new ant farm.
Day trip to Joshua Tree with Wen and Fon. Hiked down the Cottonwood wash to the drop-off and then drove north a bit before turning around.
Hiked up the middle Lykken trail from Mesquite with Eddie. Just went to the vista point and turned around. A few other folks out hiking today. Warm and sunny. For no particular reason here is a picture of my hiking boots.
Nice hike up Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing with Eddie. Another beautiful day.
Such a beautiful day today. Bright, clear, gorgeous. Didn't go for a hike (had to work a couple hours this morning) but the backyard was lovely. Here are a couple of pictures. Note the dog (Eddie) sleeping by the pool in the first picture. He just looks dead.
Good hike with Eddie up the north Lykken from Ramon to junction with the Skyline trail. And remember... NO WATER ON TRAIL UNTIL ROUND VALLEY RANGER STA. [These signs are a part of my life. I think i first saw them sometime around 1971 when i first climbed the Skyline trail as a teenager. Someone has since repainted the lettering.] Today was a very nice pretty warm clear day.
Venus about a half a degree below the mag 2 star Nunki. Through the Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars the planet and the entire teapot handle of Sagittarius fit in the same field and is very pretty. Tomorrow evening Venus will be above Nunki and even closer to the star. However the closest alignment happens early Friday morning and won't be visible.
Hiked the Garstin trail, over Smoketree mtn, looped through the middle plateau and back down the Garstin again. Warm day. No doggy this time.
Haven't added to my new gleanings page since August. Finally today i added a bunch of new links. Take a look!
Quick morning hike up and down the Araby trail with Eddie. Beautiful clear day. Would be good stargazing weather except the moon is approaching full phase.
Hiked the south Lykken trail with Eddie. Bit overcast but quite a nice day.
Had the day off so spent the day exploring eastward on I10 to Desert Center then north on the Eagle mtn road. Followed the aqueduct road to the Pinto wash gate, parked, and hiked to the well. Nice hour and a half walk through the wash. Roused a neat horned owl from his tree on my walk back. Driving home had lunch at a nice camping/stargazing spot just west of the Hayfield tunnel. Will have to keep this spot in mind for a future evening/night visit. Followed aqueduct road to Chiriaco summit then frontage road to the old Mecca road. The Mecca road south of I10 was barricaded and marked closed (i assume washed out from the rains a few weeks ago) but i went around the closure as i wasn't planning to go far. Did a bit of poking around the NW foothills of the Orocopia mtns. Found a pretty little natural arch i never knew was there. Here's another picture looking northward through the arch to my truck with I10 visible in the distance.
Ambiguous signage: This picture of the closure sign at Pinto Wash seems a bit ambiguous/contradictory. Hiking is fine of course. And no fires and no firearms i understand. But it also bans bicycles even though there were very fresh tire tracks on the road which i assume was a park service motorized vehicle. The sign also seems to allow ATVs and motorcycles but not people walking dogs. WTF? Maps show the Pinto Well as being outside the wilderness area but within the national park.
Beautiful overhead pass of the International Space Station this evening. SW to NE path. [Ground track map.] Very bright after the craft passed zenith.
Through hike from Araby trail then east to Rimrocks with Eddie. Beautiful day. Wen picked us up at the east end.
Departed home about 10:00am Friday and drove down to the Anza-Borrego. There was a 4x4 geocaching group campout on the mesa east of Truckhaven this weekend but i wasn't really interested. When i drove by i could see quite a few motorhomes with Jeeps in tow but i didn't stop. However i did stop at the view point overlooking Calcite canyon and ran into Team Gecko dad Don! Nice fellow. We chatted a bit about desert hiking and caching. He pointed out that there was a new cache just south a quarter mile on a hill so i walked over. I was the 3rd finder for T.R. Violin's S-22 Desert Cache.
After the cache i drove on and down Ella wash. I was hoping to find the 9 volt LED light i lost while camping there last month. Turns out the rains from a week ago really changed the wash a lot. My regular camping spot had flooded and if my light was there it's now somewhere down wash. I looked for it a while but no luck. Continued south down Ella wash into Palo Verde wash for a nice lunch in the shade of a smoketree. Spent the afternoon just visiting some places i'd not been to for a while... Cut-Across trail, San Felipe wash, Rainbow wash (first person up the wash since the rains), Borrego Mountain wash (passing the spot where Wen and i first camped in 1987), back east along San Felipe wash, Military wash, Cut-Across trail, and back north through Palo Verde wash returning to Ella wash and setup in my usual spot at 3:45pm. Nice afternoon however the wind came up about 5:30pm. Sun set at 5:46pm.
Bright Venus high in the south-west with a lovely orange glow along the horizon. Mars rose in late twilight and for a while i had a bright planet on each horizon. Too windy to do any real stargazing with the TV76.
Parts of the desert are really becoming overused. From my campsite i can see highway 78 about 10 miles toward the south-west and in twilight i see a constant stream of headlights eastbound. Looking through the telescope i can see almost all of these vehicles are towing trailers, most with off-road rigs. Thousands of vehicles, hour after hour. To the south-east near Ocotillo Wells are these huge cities of motorhomes and trailers. One group has bright floodlights pointed my way. There is a constant drone of vehicle noise from the off-roader area. Even as far away as they are [about 8 miles] it's quite annoying. With that and the steady wind i decided to take a nap for a while and hope for calmer conditions later in the night.
The tent wasn't much better with the fabric flapping in the wind. However around 10pm it did mostly settle down with only light gusts now and then. Got up and just sat around under the stars scanning with 10x42 binoculars. Mars at opposition is bright and large with some surface markings visible through the TV76 with the Nagler 6-3mm zoom. Saturn rose sometime after midnight. I think i can see the Gegenschein overhead just west of Mars. First time i've ever seen this elusive phenomenon. Still unable to see M33 naked eye.
There was still a steady stream of vehicles on highway 78 late into the evening and lots of activity in the off-road area. Amazing how the sound travels on the desert. Very annoying. Eventually, after midnight, most traffic had stopped and i finally had the quiet desert to myself. Well, not quite alone... two kit foxes visited my campsite as well as a little kangaroo rat. But no sidewinder this time.
Departed camp fairly early Saturday morning looping back through Palo Verde wash and a quick drive through of the Arroyo Salado campground. Stopped again at the Calcite canyon viewpoint and ran into Don again with some other cachers including T.R. Violin! Good to meet some of these fellows in person that i've only known till now via cache notes.
Hiked up Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing this morning with Eddie. Some trail erosion from last week's rain but doesn't look like any water flowed in the creek. However there is water in the middle rock pools.
Hiked the Lykken trail northward from Cahuilla canyon through to Mesquite avenue with Eddie. Took about an hour and 50 minutes. Getting a bit warm by the end of our hike. Only thing that's annoying is the city traffic sounds are quite loud especially toward the northern end of the trail.
Quite cool today with a bit of rain (and lightning/thunder even) off and on. Might have to start wearing long pants pretty soon. [After midnight we had hard rain with loud thunder!]
Eddie and i hiked along the Henderson trail and then back through Palm Canyon wash. In the wash i let Eddie run off leash. He loves this. Then some woman on a horse told me he should be on a leash so he doesn't scare horses. Blah. My dog weighs 13 pounds. Her horse probably weighs half a ton. (Eddie is more interested in chasing rabbits anyway. He doesn't care about horses.) Besides, it's a big wash... She could have easily taken her horse to the other side and avoided me and my scary little 13 pound dog altogether.
Had a day off today so went for a morning trip to the desert east of the Coachella Valley. Drove east on I10 to the Mecca Road exit and then south-west into Box Canyon. The area north of Box Canyon and south of I10 is known as Shavers Valley and there are plans afoot to develop this area into a 15,000 home resort! The area is between wilderness land to the south and Joshua Tree National Park to the north. I hate to think of this area being turned into more homes and golf courses. I'm especially concerned as it would further diminish the stargazing conditions for the Cottonwood Spring campground. Continued about half way through Box Canyon and hiked up the Sheep Hole Oasis trail to the ridgeline. [Picture of the trailhead.] Drove home basically the way i came taking a short offroad loop up Little Box Canyon to the Meccacopia road then north to the main paved road. [Picture of trail sign and seasonal closure sign.] Arrived back home about noon.
Quick observing session with the TV76 to globular cluster NGC 7662, the Blue Snowball. I somehow found it very quickly which is surprising given it's in a fairly sparse starfield. Tried to find open cluster 7686 but not sure if i found it or not as there seem to be quite a few loose groups of stars in the area.
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the second boulder with Eddie. This is probably my favorite local hiking area. Up in the canyon you don't hear the city sounds very much like you do on some of the steeper trails closer to town.
Tracked down open clusters NGC 7209 and 7243 in Lacerta with the TV76. 7243 is coarser with 7209 being softer. Both are fairly easy to find east of Deneb. Also visited M39.
Since the Santa Ana winds have made the air very clear i thought i'd make an evening trip to Cottonwood for a little stargazing. Arrived at 7pm and set up in site 30B in the upper loop. Campground wasn't busy at all but still more sites occupied on this weeknight than would have been on a mid-summer weeknight. One trailer, a couple motor homes, a van camper, and a tent camping group. But everyone was very quiet so no worries. Campground road freshly resurfaced since i was here in August. Also the lower loop is now open. Stargazed for a while with the TV76 and 10x42 binoculars. I somehow wasn't really in the mood to do much serious observing. The skyglow from the Coachella Valley is really quite bright which is depressing. It was also colder than i was expecting and i only brought a light sweater. Still, it's always nice to be outside at night. Pretty new moon and Venus. Slow moving flashing satellite near Neptune. Flashing about once every 30 seconds. Barnard's galaxy 6822 and the little planetary 6818 just north. Saturn neb 7009, M72 and M73. Galaxy 6814 and Pal 11 in Aquarius are UTL. Globular 6934, Helix nebula, M30, M15. Bright Mars near the Pleadies. Drove home about 10pm.
Using the TV76 tracked down Neptune and Uranus from the backyard. Neptune in Capricornus at mag 7.9 not bright but easy to see. The planet is near a 7 mag star which will make tracking movement over the next few days easier. While in the area visited the Saturn nebula (NGC 7009), M72 and M73. M72 was very faint and difficult and M73 did give the illusion of being nebulous. Uranus over in Aquarius at mag 5.7 was quite easy and bright.
Did some hiking up in the area above Rimrocks with Eddie.
Departed camp at 8am and drove over to Coyote canyon. Stopped at the Alcoholic pass trailhead and hiked to the summit. Trail a bit steep in parts but otherwise a really nice little hike. Round trip time just about an hour. Continued driving up the canyon to the 3rd stream crossing. Lots of water! The Lower Willows bypass trail takes off from here and i decided it was more of a challenge than i was really in the mood for today. Drove back out of the canyon and stopped at the newly remodeled ABDSP visitor center. On the way home took a lunch break at my regular Font's wash smoketree. Other than not having clear skies for stargazing was a very nice trip
Drove down to Anza-Borrego in the afternoon leaving town about 2pm. High clouds approaching from the SW but hoping for a least a bit of clear stargazing weather. Stopped by my Truckhaven cache. Sad to see a couple of the creosote bushes that were run over by an offroader last April are now half dead. Cache is otherwise in good shape. I think i'll leave the cache offline for a bit longer. After the cache stopped at my regular Truckhaven camping site and just relaxed a bit in the shade of the truck. After a while decided to move to Ella wash. Arrived at my regular site about 5:15pm. Nice warm afternoon with broken clouds. Sometime around 6:15pm the air quality noticeably degraded with the mountain ridges to the west and south losing their crisp definition. I always hate seeing that happen. Sigh. Had a pretty sunset with the clouds. There were sidewinder tracks up and down the wash near my campsite so after dark, armed with a flashlight, i went searching for the snake that left them. I came across a little sidewinder maybe 10" long. Too small to have left the tracks i was seeing but a fun find anyway. I followed him around for quite a while with my flashlight. This photo with the camera flash show how perfectly camouflaged he was. (Never did find the larger snake that left the tracks although in the morning there were additional marks indicating he'd passed by in the night!) No stargazing as the evening was quite overcast and the wind came up after 9pm. Even felt a few drops of rain!
Up and down the south Lykken trail to the vista point and back with Eddie.
Hiked the Garstin trail, over Smoketree mtn, across to the top of the Araby trail, looped through middle plateau, back down the Garstin. Really nice hike. The area is closed to dogs to protect bighorn sheep habitat so Eddie stayed home. Was also probably a bit too long a hike for him.
Cahuilla canyon to the upper boulder with Eddie. Overcast and quite a bit cooler today.
Hiked the Shannon trail with Eddie. No snakes today.
Quite a thunder/lightning show during the night. But not a lot of rain.
Hiked the Araby trail this morning with Eddie. Found a little dead king snake on the trail. Looks like someone stepped on it. Hope it was just an accident and that someone didn't kill the harmless snake on purpose.
Hiked up the shortcut trail from Camino Descanso to the Lykken then south to the vista point and back. Lower part of the Descanso is way too steep but nice it's not used much. On the way down saw a nice little king snake right on the trail. Eddie didn't even see it until it moved.
Hiked the middle Lykken trail from the end of Mesquite Ave with Eddie. Nice day. Still a good flow of water over Tahquitz Falls.
Hiked up the Shannon trail to the viewpoint overlooking Smoke Tree ranch with Eddie. While cooling off and enjoying the view we saw a beautiful king snake about 20 yards away slowly moving up the north side of a rock face in the shade. Then a few minutes later saw either another snake going up the same way, or maybe the same snake having circled around and retracing his steps, as it were. Very neat!
Hiked south Lykken trail with Eddie to the vista point and back.
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing with Eddie. Stream is dry now of course. Still pretty darn hot. Removed two survey stakes. One near the upper stream crossing and one on the bluff near the lower boulder.
Left camp a bit before 8am and drove up canyon about a mile. Stopped due to large boulders in wash. Already getting warm and today is more humid. On the way out stopped at the Rockhouse Canyon cache and logged my visit. The Tupperware cache container is in bad shape. Plastic is a bad material for desert cache containers. Nice to see the big black ant i left over 2 years ago is still guarding the cache. Picked up some cans and bottles along S22 between Font's Wash and Thimble Trail but stopped at 10am due to heat. Arrived home about 11:30am.
Drove to Anza-Borrego in afternoon departing home about 2pm. Went up Rockhouse Canyon road and arrive at my regular camping spot about 4:30pm. This is really one of my favorite camping spots in the Anza-Borrego desert. Quite remote, quiet, beautiful surroundings. [Looking N from my camp up Rockhouse Canyon. Toro Peak in the distance right of center.] Road near Clark (dry) Lake is still very washboarded. Quite a few jack rabbits along the road. Eddie would love that but he stayed at home for this trip. Temp at 5pm is 103°. On the warm side but dry and comfortable in shade. This site is against a ridge to the west so get a bit of shade by late afternoon. [Looking SE from my camp toward Clark Lake on left and Coyote Mtn on right.] Temp at 6pm is 102°. Between 6 and 7pm the air quality deteriorated quite a bit. The ridges lost their clarity and the sky went from a clear deep blue color to a sort of hazy light blue. Sad to see pollutants from cites to the west impact the desert skies so much. Temp at 7pm is 96°. Nice! [Looking east after sunset toward Santa Rosa mtns and Rabbit peak.] At 7:40pm walked about 100 yards east of my campsite to see Venus and Jupiter close together over the ridge to the west. Very pretty. Temp at 8pm is 92°. Fairly breezy after dark. Decided to sleep a while before doing any stargazing. Slept till after midnight before doing some observing with the TV76...
» Helix nebula (7293) in Aquarius visible through 10x32 binoculars.
» 247, GX, Cetus - Large but faint.
» 253, GX, Sculptor - Large, bright, elongated.
» 288, GC, Sculptor - Fairly bright. Same field with 253.
» 300, GC, Sculptor - Fairly large, faint. Some foreground stars superimposed over the galaxy. Here is a nice image of the galaxy.
» 55, GX, Sculptor - Fairly bright. Elongated.
» 613, GX, Sculptor - Small and faint. Near a mag 9 or 10 star.
» 1097, GX, Fornax - Hard to locate. Medium size, faint.
» M74, GX, Pisces - Fairly bright. Round. I think i could almost see with 10x32 binoculars but not sure.
» M33, GX, Triangulum - Easy in 10x32 binoculars. Could not see naked eye.
» At 2:10am watched the Orion Nebula rising over the Santa Rosa mtns.
» Open clusters M38, M36 and M37 in Auriga.
» The Crab Nebula, M1, in Taurus.
» Took another nap from about 2:30am to 4am.
» 1291, GX, Fornax.
» 1365 and 1399, GX, Fornax - Galaxies in the Fornax Cluster. 1365 is larger, 1399 smaller. 1365 is a beautiful barred spiral galaxy as this image shows but of course this detail isn't visible in my little 76mm APO. Can also see galaxy 1404 which is not plotted in the BSA just south of 1399.
» 1360, PN, Fornax - Big for a planetary! Round. Can see central star. Very interesting object. Surprised it isn't more well known. Galaxy 1398 in the same field is quite a bit smaller.
» 1232, GX, Eridanus - Fairly faint.
» 1407, GX, Eridanus - Small, faint.
» Mars overhead showing a gibbous phase.
» Saturn rising next to the Beehive M44.
» Zodiacal light quite bright. Time to sleep a bit before sunrise.
Hiked Araby trail with Eddie.
Was hoping to make one last trip up the tramway today before my summer pass expires. However the tram is closed due to a wildfire in Blaisdell Canyon north of Chino Canyon. Eddie and i did a quick hike up the Shannon instead. Hot and humid so didn't go far. Just to the plaque and back.
The main road through Joshua Tree NP is closed at the visitor center due to recent floodings at Fried Liver wash. This was a good opportunity for Eddie and i to just walk along the road with no traffic. (Dogs are not allowed on trails in the park so hiking with pets is limited.) We walked from the visitor center north about 2.5 miles and back. Took us about an hour and a half and we were both pretty hot and thirsty afterwards.
Depart home about 4:15pm headed for Cottonwood. Pretty darn hot in Palm Springs today. Arrive Cottonwood about 5:25pm site 25B in upper loop. Lower loop is still closed. Temp at 6pm is 95°. Warm but okay sitting in the shade. Later move to site 31B. Sunset a few minutes before 7pm with the temp at a comfortable 90°. Take a little walk around camp with Eddie in twilight. Four other sites occupied. At 8pm temp is 84°.
» Spica, Jupiter and Venus (left to right in the picture) are pretty together in the evening sky. At about 7:50pm caught a glimpse of a very bright flare from Iridium 46 high in the NW. Also a nice pass of the HST at about 8:30pm.
» Stargazing with TV76 using Bright Star Atlas.
» Scorpius: OC 6231, PN 6302, GN 6388, OC M7 and M6, GC M4, GN 6144 near Antares, and GC M80. Observed all using both 16mm and 9mm eyepieces.
» Barnard's Galaxy in Sagittarius (6822) is just visible above background sky glow with the 16mm. Very hard. PN 6818 just north of the galaxy is easy to pick out through the 9mm.
» Mars rising at about 11pm. Bright! Thought it was an airplane at first.
» Overhead are M71 in Sagitta and the Dumbbell M27 in Vulpecula.
» Off to the SE in Aquarius is the Helix PN 7293. Quite easy in 10x42 binoculars as well.
» Also in Aquarius PN 7009, the Saturn nebula. Starlike in the 16mm. Has some shape at higher powers. Not sure if i can really see the "ring" appendages or not. Also nearby are M72 and M73.
» Randomly wandering around to the north: Double Cluster, Kemble's Cascade and OC 1502, the ET cluster, and way down below Polaris are M81 and M82.
» Watching the Pleiades rise through creosote bush. Moon rose around 11:50pm. Temp 76° at midnight.
Hiked with Kai from tramway to Round Valley then back across the high trail to Hidden Lake. Kai took a picture of me too. (I didn't realize i had such knobby knees!) Still lots of water in Hidden Lake. We also created a new trail snack that's quite good... Two parts roasted almonds (salted) and one part Good & Plenty licorice candy! Yummy!!
Posted a bunch of new gleanings today. Been saving them up for a few months. digg is really good if you're into technology or what's going on on the net.
Hiked south Lykken trail to vista point with Eddie. Still pretty darn hot.
Hiked the Araby trail with Eddie. Went earlier in the day so Eddie didn't get too hot this time. The desert trumpet (Eriogonum inflatum) is still in bloom. Not sure if these blooms have lasted all summer or if these are fresh blooms from the recent rains.
Just a couple of random pictures of Eddie getting ball from pool and cozy in newspaper recycling box.
Hiked the Shannon trail to Smoketree mtn and back with Eddie. A bit too warm still for a little doggy. I carried him part of the eway back down when he got overheated. I got a bit overheated myself too!
Went out early this morning from 1:30am till a bit after 2am. Only saw 5 Perseids through hazy skies. I don't have much luck with meteor showers. A couple of them were very bright however. Nice to see Mars again and the Pleiades rising.
Little bit cooler temps this morning so hiked the south Lykken trail to the vista point and back with Eddie.
Recovering from a bit of a sore throat so just did a short loop hike from the tramway, around Round Valley, then back via high trail. Cool and fresh with evidence along the trails that there has been lots of rain from thunderstorms recently.
Depart Lone Pine early (6:20am) to get across the desert before it gets too hot. Arrive home about 10:50am. Really a nice little vacation. Interesting sites and relaxing too. Link to the main photo gallery. 251 miles today. 1313 total miles for trip. Total amount we spent for lodging... $594.45.
Walked around town early and watched the sun rise before Wen and Kai were up. Drove back out to the spot i was stargazing from last night then stopped at a couple of places along the lake. Made the June Lake loop before continuing south on highway 395. Gas and market in Bishop then lunch in city park. Continue on southward stopping at the Mt. Whitney fish hatchery near Independence and driving through the Manzanar war relocation camp. Arrive in Lone Pine about 3:30pm and check into Mt. Whitney Motel, room 33, right at the corner of Willow and Washington streets. Very nice large room with two queen beds. Best, and least expensive, hotel room of the trip. Wireless internet access too! After a little rest drive up to Whitney Portal and back just to look around. Dinner at the Pizza Factory. 211 miles today.
Walk to Buena Vista bar for breakfast (and Irish coffee) but they don't open until 9am so return to hotel for breakfast. Depart San Francisco a bit before 9am heading east to Yosemite via interstates 80, 580, 205, 5 and highway 120. Stop for groceries and gas in Manteca. Picnic lunch at Mary Laveroni park in Groveland. Drive through Yosemite Valley then take Tioga pass road through Tuolumne Meadows to Lee Vining. Surprised the valley wasn't as crowded as i'd heard it was. Stay at El Mono motel in room 4. Nice simple homey little place. Very comfy with bent wood chairs outside each room too. Dinner at Nicely's cafe. After dinner walk up and down town (which doesn't take long) then back to motel. After dark i drove a few miles north on 395 to the old cemetery road and found a nice dark spot for a hour or so of stargazing with the Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Bit of skyglow from Reno to the north but otherwise very dark skies. 290 miles today.
Nice continental breakfast in hotel. Walk from hotel to Lombard and Hyde then take cable car to Market street. Visit some stores then walk north to Chinatown. Buy some trinkets and have lunch at Hang Ah. (Good!) Continue walking north to Pier 41 and take 2:45pm cruise to Alcatraz. Tour the prison then back to wharf about 4:30pm. Walk back to hotel and relax a bit. For dinner walk back to wharf and have seafood at Sabella & LaTorre's fish stand. No driving today.
Drive north through Santa Cruz then along coast to San Francisco. Mostly foggy near ocean. But this is a good thing! Arrive San Francisco around 11:30am. Lunch at Shalimar near Polk and Pine. Very good Indian food. (Thanks MeAndIt for the tip!) After lunch walk to Cable Car Museum. Also visit Grace Cathedral. Check into Comfort Inn about 2:30pm, room 212. Not much of a view but a nice room otherwise. Relax in room a bit and watch Dumb and Dumber on TV. Later walk out on breakwater then through Fisherman's Wharf area. Dinner at Lori's Diner in Ghirardelli Square. 102 miles today.
Start of a little one week vacation trip. Depart home a bit after 6am. Drive to Gilroy via San Bernardino, Palmdale, Mojave, Bakersfield. Lunch at rest stop south of Los Banos. Arrive at Garlic Festival at 2pm. Lots of people at the festival. We thought the $12 entry fee a bit steep too. Spent a couple hours then drive over Hecker pass to Watsonville. Stay in Best Value Inn, room 121. We all share a king size bed for $139 plus tax. Not a bad room but pricy for a simple motel room. (But they do have high speed internet access.) Dinner at Jalisco's. Good food, poor service. 459 miles today.
Had originally planned to hike from the tramway to peak with co-workers. However when we arrived at the lower tram station it was raining quite hard. Decided against going up the tram. Hiked the middle Lykken from the end of Mesquite instead. Quite muggy but at least the sun was mostly blocked by clouds.
Eddie and i were feeling cooped up at home so we took a little hike up Cahuilla canyon this evening. Wasn't quite so hot today but still pretty muggy. Eddie had fun chasing after everything. But after a while he got worn out and just followed along behind me panting. He got a cactus thorn in his paw too but he just waited for me to pull it out without complaining. He'll be a good hiking companion in the desert after the weather cools off.
Hiked tramway to Round valley, north to Mini Cache Two, back around Round valley then High trail to Mini Cache One. I didn't realize until afterwards that i had visited both these caches exactly one year ago today. Warm day in the mountains.
Hiked tramway south from Long valley and took the high trail over to Round valley. Then a quick dash up to Wellman's and back along the main trail. Not a long hike but a very nice day nonetheless. Even ran into a workmate whom i didn't realize was a hiker!
Looked for the nova in Sagittarius again with the TV76 but couldn't really pick it out from the background stars. Seems this nova faded very quickly. Funny side note: Using standard charts to find the nova with my refractor (which flips the image left/right) i found a little round nebula in what seemed like the correct spot for the nova. It was globular NGC 6624 but for a moment i mistook its location for that of the nova and thought the nova had evolved into a small planetary in a matter of days! I realized my mistake after a minute or two. Sigh...
Viewed nova 2005 no. 2 in Sagittarius from backyard through the TV76. Not much to say really. Nova is in an easy to locate starfield in the spout of the Sagittarius teapot. Brightness seemed very similar to mag 7.8 SAO 209941 just west of the nova.
Hiked from the tramway to peak of Mt. San Jacinto! Feel a bit worn out. Total roundtrip time 4 hours 25 minutes.
Drove up to Cottonwood campground in late afternoon arriving a bit after 7pm. When i first arrived i had the entire campground to myself. Later in the evening a few other quiet groups arrived. This place is so nice in the summer without all the snowbirds and their stupid motorhomes. This was also the first camping trip for Eddie! [See entry for 6/6 below.] He did just fine but wanted to chase all the rabbits and lizards. (I kept him leashed and under control at all times.) Lovely warm evening stargazing with the TV76...
» Venus with Mercury just to its left are pretty in the twilight sky. Saturn down below and to the right is harder but visible to naked eye before it set.
» Supernova 2005cs in M51 was UTL. Just out of reach for the TV76.
» Comet Tempel extremely dim. Just barely visible above the background sky. Would not be visible at all if there was any more light polution.
» Comet Machholz still hanging in there. Seems just a bit brighter and bigger than Tempel but still quite difficult.
Hiked with Wen from the tramway to Round valley, then north to Tamarack valley. Back via the high trail to Hidden lake. Very nice day but seemed there were a lot of other hikers out too.
Hiked from tramway to Wellman's divide and back. Breezy and cooler than i was expecting. Just a bit of snow on the trail near the divide but otherwise mostly gone compared to when i was last in Round valley 4 weeks ago.
Hiked from tramway south over Hidden Lake summit, Willow Creek crossing (lots of water), west a bit then cross country south to Tahquitz Creek trail. Back via Laws camp and Laws trail. Felt pretty worn out by the time i got back.
Tried to find comet C/2005 K2 Linear in the NW about 9:30pm but was UTL.
Could just pick the young crescent moon out of evening twilight with naked eye about 8:20pm. The moon would have been around 30 hours old. Venus was also nearby and starting to get quite bright.
We adopted a dog today from the Animal Action League. He looks like a Jack Russell terrier, or maybe a Fox terrier, and is a couple years old. Very friendly and smart. We're going to call him Eddie. Here is a picture of our Eddie.
Hike shannon to the upper vista point and back. Not so hot today.
Got up before sunrise about 5:50am. Temp 64°. Sunrise over Chuckwalla mtn at 6:06am. Walked around camp a bit. Really a nice camping spot. Too bad you can still hear the freeway traffic however. Depart camp about 7:25am. Drive through Cottonwood camp on the way home. Quite a few telescopes set up in the upper loop. Arrived home at 9:50am.
Departed home about 6:15pm driving east on I10. Had originally planned to go to Cottonwood but along the way decided to try the Red Cloud road instead. Arrived at a nice campsite just as sun was setting about 7:40pm. Nice view of Chuckwalla peak with all its towers. Good cell phone reception here too. Light breeze when i arrived but not at all bothersome. Bit of haze but otherwise clear. Quite glad i didn't go to Cottonwood. Really nice to be out with no one anywhere around. Lovely still twilight with Venus shining brightly low in the west. Venus set about 8:52pm. After sunset the breeze stopped for a totally still evening stargazing with the TV76 and 10x42 binoculars. Temp at midnight about 70°. Just about perfect.
» Cor Caroli - Pretty double. Primary seems yellowish with white/blue secondary.
» Galaxies in Canes Venatici: M63 easy and bright oblong shape, M94 round like a globular, 5005 not bright but quite easy to see, 4490 also fairly easy, 4449, M106 reminds me of a small Andromeda galaxy.
» M63, M94 and M106 all visible in 10x42 binoculars as well.
» Comet C/2004 Q2 Machholz a bit north of Cor Caroli is much fainter than last time i saw it. Still visible in 10x42 binoculars though.
» In Ursa Major tried for galaxy 3445 but was UTL. M108 and M97 are both dim but i still like them as they make a nice pair in the field and an interesting comparison of the elongated galaxy and a round planetary. M51 and companion as well as big M101.
» The "Draco Triplets" of 5981, 5982, 5985 are all UTL in the TV76.
» Comet Tempel in Virgo still very faint and quite hard. Would never have found without Skytools finder chart. Unable to see in binoculars. Looking now at 10:30pm it's getting into skyglow from Coachella valley. Should have looked earlier while it was closer to transit.
» M104 and the "Stargate" and "Jaws". Nice area.
» Watching open cluster M7 through ocotillo branches low in the SE. Very pretty. I really like looking at stars through foreground terrestrial objects.
» Spent some time just sitting and scanning around with handheld binoculars. With the binos can see the brighter half of the Veil nebula.
I've been following asteroid Ceres for the past 4 nights using both 10x32 binoculars and my Tele Vue 76 as it approached the star Delta Librae. Tonight the asteroid had passed to the other side of the star, also known as Zuben Elakribi, and would have been about 2'20" away when i observed at 9pm local time. Its closest separation of about 1'15" a few hours earlier would have been during daylight for me.
First tramway hike of the season. Hiked to Hidden Lake (full to overflowing) then high trail to Round Valley. Lots of snow on some of the trails. When i got back to the upper station my boots were quite wet.
Shannon again, over the peak, through the middle plateau, and back down. Hot! Probably last desert hike for a while.
Quick hike up and down the Shannon trial.
On my way home Sunday morning did a little exploring around the eastern Coxcomb mountains. Came across this abandoned trailer. Needs a little work but the location sure is nice.
Spent the day out east on the desert mostly in the Palen Valley east and north of the Coxcomb mtns. Interstate 10 to Hwy 177 to Hwy 62 to Clarke Pass. Found the north end of the Pinto Wells road. (Here is a picture of the south end of the road taken in December 2000.) I've always wanted to follow this road all the way across the park but it's closed to vehicles and the 15 mile one way through hike will take a little bit of planning. Back to Palen Pass to camp and stargaze for the night. Nice evening with no wind however the clear skies from the day became somewhat hazy in late afternoon so the stars weren't as great as they should have been. During twilight watched Venus setting over the Coxcomb mtns. Nice to have Venus back in the evening sky. Stargazing with the TV76 spotted comet Tempel in Virgo. Small and quite faint with the 16mm Nagler at 30x. Better with the 9mm at 53x. (A month earlier from the Anza-Borrego desert i was unsuccessful in finding Tempel.) Nearby galaxies NGC 4762 and 4754 were also visible. 4762 is a bit elongated and situated between two mag 9 or so stars. 4754 is smaller and fainter. Also revisited comet Machholz and found it easily near the Big Dipper star Megrez. Machholz is still visible with 10x42 binoculars as well. Some other objects visited were M13, M92, M5, and faint galaxy 5746 in Virgo. To the south M104, M68, large galaxy 5068, M83 with bright core, small and faint 5102, easy 5128, and big Omega Centauri down in the skyglow from Mexicali.
Hiked the Araby trail, across to Wildhorse junction, back over Smoketree mtn, through the dip, and back down Araby. Beatutiful day and no other hikers out. The desert trumpet (Eriogonum inflatum) along the Araby trail is really blooming and quite tall. Some are almost chest height.
Hiked up the Garstin trail, looped through the middle plateau (saw a nice horned lizard), over Smoketree mtn, down the Shannon, and back on the Henderson. Very nice casual loop hike.
Hiked south Lykken trail to the vista point and back. Came across a very nice lizard. Was either a leopard lizard or a collared lizard. [There is a bit of disagreement among some of my naturalists friends as to just what i saw.] Was about the size of a small chuckwalla, medium brown, with white lateral stripes about 1/8" wide across the back. These strips turned bright orange along the side of the body and were quite striking. A very pretty lizard.
Picked out Venus for the first time this cycle at about 7:15pm local time during bright evening twilight . I was using my 10x32 Leica binoculars. Over the next few months Venus will be slowing pulling away from the sun and moving southward. Also on the evening of June 25th, Venus, Mercury and Saturn will all be within 2° of each other!
Just a quick hike halfway up the Shannon trail to the first vista point and back. Recovering from a bit of a head cold so just took it easy.
Hiked the north Lykken from the end or Ramon, around the picnic tables, and back down. On the way up saw what i think was a three lined boa shoot across the trail in front of me. On the way down encountered a beautiful big rattlesnake right along the trail. I used my bamboo hiking pole to lift it up for a better look which did not seem to bother the snake at all. I set it down and let it go find a hiding place for the day.
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the second stream crossing. No surface water at the crossings however there is still a bit of water in the middle bedrock pools.
Posted a few new gleanings.
Hiked the Araby trail to my Araby Hope cache. Bit cool and breezy this morning. The indigo bush is really blooming along the trail.
Hiked the Shannon trail with Wen. Saw 1 rattlesnake and 2 king snakes! The rattlesnake was coiled up right in the middle of the trail. On the way back down the rattlesnake was still coiled up in the same place so i coaxed it off the trail with a stick.
Day trip to the northern Anza-Borrego desert. Visited my Truckhaven cache. Some inconsiderate jerk had driven directly to the cache across the open desert and crushed 3 creosote bushes in the process. I tried to cover up some of the worse tire tracks. After the cache continued west along S22 doing my usual cans and bottles pick up routine. Not really much trash today. Ate lunch along Font's wash. Drove up to Font's point (lots of people) then took Short wash to Palo Verde wash and back out via Ella wash. Most of the wildflowers are gone and it's starting to get warm. Got home about 3pm.
Hike south Lykken to vista point and back.
Drove to Maniobra valley in mid-afternoon. Arrived about 4pm. Quite breezy. Drove up the road a couple miles from my usual campsite and hiked around a bit. Back to my site about 5pm. Here are a few pictures. Still breezy but decided to wait till dark to see if conditions improved. They did. By twilight the winds were gone and i had nice evening stargazing with TV76 and various binoculars. The skyglow from the Coachella valley is getting quite bad even here which is depressing.
Stargazing with TV76 and binoculars where noted...
» Leo Trio - M66, M65, NGC 3628 - M66 is brightest. Can also see NGC 3593. Using the Nikon 10x42 binoculars M66 and M65 are quite easy and can just see 3628. Through the Leica 10x32 M66 and M65 are visible but 3628 really isn't. Handholding the Fujinon 16x70 all 3 members are easy.
» Still in Leo M95, M96, and the pair of M105 and NGC 3384. (Had a hard time finding any of these through binoculars.) Also NGC 3412, 3338, 3367 (very faint), and 3377 (much easier.)
» Some galaxies in the Virgo cluster... M98, M99, M100, M85, 4212 (very faint), 4216 (elongated.)
» Working along Markarian's Chain are M84, M86, 4388 (barely), 4435, 4438, 4473, 4477, 4459, M88 and M91.
» And finally M87, M89, M90, 4567/4568 (barely), 4564 and lastly M58. A fun night with a lot of galaxies!
» Temp at dawn was 38°. Brrrrr.
Hiked the Henderson trail over to the Garstin, up Garstin to junction with the Shannon, then down Shannon. Nice little loop hike.
Quick hike up and down the Shannon before work.
Hiked Shannon trail with Wen. Over the peak and looped through middle plateau. The grasses are all dead and brown.
Spent two nights camping in the southern Anza-Borrego desert. Beautiful clear warm sunny days. Bit cool at night but not bad. Here are some pictures from around my Carrizo Valley campsite. Did a bit of stargazing with the TV76 but the skyglow from Mexicali is really getting bad.
» Started by trying to find a couple of dim comets but didn't have much luck. C/2003 K4 LINEAR low to the SW in Eridanus but at only mag 10.9 i could not pick it out of the late twilight glow. C/2004 Q1 Tucker high in the NW at mag 11.9 was also out of reach. However C/2004 Q2 Machholz is still quite nice. Easily seen with 10x32 binoculars as well.
» In Ursa Major the quartet of M81, M83, NGC 2976 and NGC 3077 all visible. Also NGC 3184 near Mu Ursae Majoris. M51 and M101 are visible in 10x32 binoculars.
» Jupiter on the evening of 3/31 has a very interesting alignment of moons. All of them on one side of the planet with 3 grouped in a little arc with a forth farther off.
» In Leo the trio of M65, M66 and NGC 3628. All 3 even visible in 10x32 binoculars. Also in Leo M95, M96, M105, NGC 3384 and NGC 2903. Star 54 Leo is a nice double.
» Just over the border in Leo Minor is NGC 3344. Can see one, or maybe two stars superimposed over the galaxy. Not bright but fairly easy through the TV76. This image shows the spiral and foreground stars.
» Spent a little time just panning around in the Realm of Galaxies. Didn't try to identify any but can easily see 8 or 10 galaxies.
Drove home Friday morning via Ocotillo.
Hiked to the top of Murray Hill via the Andreas Hills trail from the west. Came down via the north trail to Rimrocks. I think this is the better direction to do this hike. The north trail up from Rimrocks is pretty steep.
Another quick hike. This time up and down the Araby trail.
Hiked half way up the Shannon again this evening from about 6pm to 7pm. Pretty view of Palm Springs after dark. The brightest areas of the city are the airport terminal (by far the brightest), the Verizon parking lot at Gene Autry and Mesquite, Smoketree shopping center, the Stein Mart shopping center, Mac Magruder Chevrolet, and the general downtown area. My neighborhood is relatively dark. Didn't need to use the flashlight much on the hike down as the trail was lit enough from general city glow.
Quick morning hike up and down the Shannon trail.
Hiked the Garstin trail with Wen. Came down via the Andreas Hills trail. Was pleased to see the Andreas Hills trail has very few invasive grasses and no Sahara mustard.
Hiked the middle Lykken from Mesquite Ave to the vista point and back. Nice cascade of water over Tahquitz falls. Lots of mustard along the trail but at least not so much grass. There is a neat white Arizona lupine along the trail near the picnic area.
Some new gleanings online. I think the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness is my favorite.
Walked up Cahuilla canyon to the lower stream crossing. Still a nice little flow of water although it disappears just east of the trail crossing. Crossed back over to the Lykken trail and hiked up through the vista point and continued north to the middle access trail. Lots of nice larkspur north of the vista point. Not as much grass as along the Shannon either. The new trail down to Camino Descanso is very steep in parts. Walked along south Palm Canyon drive back to where i'd parked my truck.
The equinox happened at 4:33am Pacific time this morning. Happy Spring! Hiked up and down the Shannon trail with Wen. Lots of grass and it's all going to seed now. The wildflowers from the wet winter were nice but i don't like all the grass.
Quick hike up and down the Araby trail. Lots of grass along the trail. Took a while to pick all the seeds out of my socks. And today is my dad's birthday...
Hiked up the Garstin trail, looped through the middle plateau, then back down over Smoketree Mtn. Quite windy. Still lots of wildflowers but a bit passed peak i think.
Spent a great couple of days camping on the desert. Drove to Joshua Tree National Park via the south entrance Friday and spent the night at the Jumbo Rocks campground. Met my friend vorpalblade who'd driven down from Reno with his little camper. Being it's near the peak tourist season, and also peak wildflower time, the place was packed. Spent a lot of time taking wildflower photos during the day. Didn't do much stargazing Friday night as it was cold and the campfire seemed more important than the stars. Saturday i decided i wanted a bit less company so drove back through the park and camped on the northern side of the Orocopia mtns. Even though i was within sight, and earshot, of Interstate 10 it was nice to not to be surrounded by other campers. I did do some stargazing Saturday night with the TV76...
» In Gemini near Saturn open cluster NGC 2420. Even closer to Saturn is planetary NGC 2392, the Eskimo nebula. The neb is near a star and at first looks like a double star. Even using the 7mm Nagler i could fit Saturn and 2392 in the same field.
» Still in Gemini visited open clusters M35 and NGC 2158.
» Just over the border in Orion i found NGC 2174/2175 to be quite interesting. 2174 is the neb and 2175 the cluster. The neb has the same gray glow that the Rosette does. The cluster seemed to form a sort of S shape. Nice picture of NGC 2174/2175 here.
» Over in Monoceros checked the Rosette. Really big compared to 2174. Also tried again to find the Cone nebula but still no luck.
» While looking at M50 i noticed a very unusual tiny asterism of stars about 3° south-west of the cluster. It looks like a 3 or maybe a big letter E. Very distinct. [After doing some research at home i find this is asterism/cluster is known as Pakan's 3. Math Heijen's Backyard Astronomer site gives some more info.]
» In Puppis open clusters M47, NGC 2423, M46 and planetary NGC 2438 within M46.
» A bit of galaxy hopping in Ursa Major... NGC 3184 between stars Tania Borealis and Tania Australis (Mu Ursae Majoris). Planetary M97, elongated galaxy M108, galaxies M109, M51 with companion, and M101. M81 and M82 were easy along with nearby NGC 3077 and 2976 all fitting within the same 30x field.
» Finished off the night with the Leo Trio of M65, M66 and NGC 3628.
» By 9:30pm or so i was quite tired from driving and from being out in the sun all day so called it a night. Packed up fairly early Sunday morning and drove home.
Hiked up the south Lykken trail to the vista point. Encelia is rampant, tons of rock daisy, lots of lupine. Saw a nice big chuckwalla too. Didn't take any pictures this time. Also hiked up the canyon a bit to where someone had stuck up a big wooden cross made from 4x4 lumber. I removed the cross. It was heavy. But it made good firewood.
Hiked the Shannon trail this morning. Seems like the weather went from cool and rainy to hot and sunny almost overnight. Still just a bit of water flowing in the Palm Canyon wash. Lots of great wildflowers! Finally got a nice shot of a Desert Hyacinth. Some other good closeups too. Only bad part were the mustard (which i pulled up some) and lots of grasses.
Wen and i drove out to Cottonwood canyon this morning to check out the wildflowers. A very nice display indeed. Pictures are here. Also along the freeway are some very nice displays of sunflower, encelia, lupine and quite a bit of apricot mallow in one section near the Cactus City rest stop.
Nice bincoular view of comet Machholz near the pole star Polaris. The two are within 6° of each other. In a couple of days they will be within 5°.
Walked up Cahuilla canyon this morning to the upper stream crossing. Was surprised to find a good flow of water at the lower stream crossing since we haven't had any rain for about 5 days now. Lots of wildflowers! Took lots of pictures!
Sunday morning was quite overcast but by 8am or so it had cleared for the most part. Met up with a group of naturalists to tour some of the better wildflower areas. Stopped along Henderson Canyon road, San Felipe Wash and Nude Wash. Didn't take a lot of pictures but here are some from Nude Wash.
Drove down to Anza-Borrego desert a bit before noon. Bit hazy but generally sunny with a few clouds around the edges. Camped at my usual Ella Wash site. After sunset was a little too breezy but did spend about an hour stargazing with the TV76 before high thin clouds ruined the view. Just as well since the moon was rising as well. Mostly just revisited some open clusters in Monoceros. Here are some pictures from around my campsite.
Quick hike up and down the Araby trail between storms. I had originally planned to go up the Shannon trail but the Palm Canyon wash was full of water so i couldn't get from where i park across to the trailhead.
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the upper stream crossing in the rain. Lovely. Everything drenched. Not often i get to wear my rain poncho on desert hikes!
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the upper stream crossing. No water at the lower stream crossing but still nice flow in the middle pools. Wildflowers are looking really good. Seems like most everything is blooming. Gorgeous! I lost my cell phone along the trail so had to make a couple extra trips up and down before i finally found it. But that was okay too!
Short break between rain allowed for some quick glances at a few easy to find favorites. Using 10x42 binoculars and the TV76 visited the Christmas Tree cluster (NGC 2264) and the Rosette cluster (NGC 2244). Also my new favorite Cascade cluster (NGC 2301). Also comet Machholz is still easy to spot now in the north in Cassiopeia passing between two 7 mag (or so) stars. Didn't stay out long as there was lots of moisture in the air and and the skies weren't that good. Also i'm recoving from a head cold and just wasn't up to staying out long.
Just watched a thin new moon set over the San Jacinto mtns west of town. I first found the moon using Leica 10x32 binoculars and then brought out my Tele Vue 76 refractor. Was fun to watch the thin arc touch the mountains and then glide out of sight through the TV76. I could just glimpse the crescent with naked eye before it set. The Naval Observatory site says the moon was new on the 8th at 2:28pm PST. That would make the thin crescent i saw 27 hours old. That's certainly a record for me!
Revisited a few of the objects from a couple nights ago again with the TV76 plus some new ones.
» Tried to spot some nebulosity in NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree cluster, but could not.
» However i could see NGC 2261, Hubble's Variable Nebula, as a very small patch through the 9mm Nagler. Oddly when i tried with the UHC filter i could not see the nebula at all.
» The Rosette nebula was interesting. With UHC on the 9mm Nagler i could see a sort of grayish mottling around the central cluster. Mostly noticeable to the north. It's hard to describe what it looked like. There was something there but it didn't really look like a nebula at all. Just a strange presence that didn't look like empty space.
» Revisited open cluster NGC 2301. I really like this little cascade of a cluster.
» Open cluster NGC 2232 contains the star 10 Monoceros. Pretty field with tendrils of stars dangling southward from the bright star and an arc of stars just NW. Nice binocular field as well.
» M50 seems sort of uninteresting when compared to some of the other objects in the area.
» Open clusters NGC 2335 and 2343 are both rather small and faint. Can only resolve a few stars in 2335 whereas 2343 is sort of boxy in shape. Both fit in the same 53x field.
» NGC 2353 contains one bright star that seems to overpower the rest of the cluster.
» Last couple of objects are just over the border into Puppis... M47 is beautiful! Bright, large, very nice through the TV76. Interesting patterns of stars with a nice double near center at the southern tip of a little kite of stars. M46 is also large but very different from M47. Fainter stars but lots more of them. Jerry Lodriguss' great image of the clusters compares them well. And for a special treat when i put the UHC on the 9mm Nagler planetary NGC 2438 popped into view! Note the red planetary is visible in the image as well.
Visited 3 open clusters in Monoceros with the TV76 this evening. First was NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree cluster. Quite large and very nice at 30x. This image by Martin Germano shows the area well. I wasn't able to see any of the nebulosity through my backyard skies however. Note the Cone nebula at the southern tip of the cluster which would actually be the top of the Christmas tree. Second cluster visited was NGC 2244. This cluster is at the center of the Rosette nebula. Even though the nebula itself was not visible tonight the cluster itself is one of my favorites. Third and last cluster was NGC 2301. This is a sweet little cluster. An elongated string of stars that reminded me quite a bit of Kemble's Cascade. This picture by Claude Fortin shows the cascade shape well. Comparing the two images the similarities are striking.
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the upper stream crossing. Still a good flow of water even at the lower stream crossing. Not like it was a couple weeks ago however. Nice pools in the middle area. Too bad water doesn't flow here in the summer time. Would be a great place to cool off on a hot afternoon!
NGC 2392, the Eskimo nebula in Gemini easily found with the TV76. Also the planet Saturn. Both fit within the same 30x field. Tried for globular NGC 2419 in Lynx. A couple of times i almost thought i could glimpse this remote globular but not really sure.
Beautiful day. Brilliant clear blue sky. Perfect desert hiking. Wen dropped me off at Rimrocks center and i hiked westward to the Wildhorse junction. From there north over Smoketree mountain and down the Shannon trail. Not that many people out hiking today. Sort of surprised me. Last time i was in this area there were tons of people on the trails.
Bit of exploring with the TV76 from the backyard tonight around comet Machholz. The comet is crossing IC 1848 in Cassiopeia. This area shows some interesting mottling in small scopes from darksky sites but from home only a nice starfield is visible. No tail(s) were visible from the comet. There are some nice little open clusters in the area. NGC 1027 and the cluster associated with IC 1805 are both sparse but fit in the same field. To the east just over the border into Camelopardalis open cluster Stock 23 looks like a lopsided kite. Very nice at 30x. South-west of the comet is the Double Cluster in Perseus. The western cluster (NGC 869) is the brighter with two nice bright stars. But the eastern cluster (NGC 884) is always my favorite with two little elongated triangles of stars near the center. The Ironman Cluster Stock 2 looks like himself although he's upside down. Finally back in Camelopardalis to visit open cluster NGC 1502 and Kemble's cascade. Such a great area for a small scope. Planetary NGC 1501 was UTL.
Short backyard observing session with the TV76. The moon a few day past full had just risen but skies were surprisingly dark. Open cluster NGC 1662 in Orion that Sue French mentioned in her recent column does look very much like the running lights of a Klingon ship! Neat! Visible with 10x42 binoculars but nicest with the 9mm Nagler at 51x. Tried for galaxy NGC 1691 but was unable to locate. A bit south-east is the variable W Orion. Nice orange color. There is also a nice little double in the same field to the north-west. Just north of Orion over the border into Taurus open clusters NGC 1807 and 1817. Both are rather sparse but they make a nice little pair. Moonlight getting fairly bright now but i did remember to take a look at comet Machholz. The comet and the double cluster in Perseus just fit in the same binocular field. Seems weird to see the comet so far north. Just a few months ago it was way down south below Lepus. No real detail was seen through the moonlight. Hoping for clear skies this weekend to get out on the open desert.
Hiked the north Lykken from Ramon road to Skyline trail junction then looped around by the picnic tables before heading back down. I do wish the city would fix the trailhead parking. To have such a nice trail and then put up all those stupid NO PARKING signs is moronic.
Walked up Cahuilla canyon to lower boulder. Still a nice flow of water.
Wen and i hiked up the Shannon trail, over the peak, looped through middle plateau, and back down Shannon.
For fun here is a picture of my desk at work. Note the lavalamp. On sale this week at Target for $12!!!
Hiked back up the lower area of Cahuilla canyon again this morning with Wen and Kai. Wanted to show them the water. Is really lovely.
Hiked the length of the south Lykken trail from Mesquite Avenue to Cahuilla/Oswitt canyon. Another lovely day. Tons of water in Tahquitz canyon. Lots of green growth and some lupine and poppies blooming. Lots of water in Cahuilla canyon as well.
First real hike of 2005. Hiked up the Araby trail, across the dip to Smoketree mtn, and then looped back through the middle plateau. Spectacular day! Clear, sunny, bright, perfect. Lots of green too. Also lots of people on the trails. Saw 3 groups of 10 or more plus quite a few couples and a few single hikers like me. With all the rain and cold weather we've had i think everyone [me too] was eager to get out hiking.
Backyard stargazing with the TV76. First object was comet Machholz. Easy naked eye object. Through the 3" can just detect the ion tail. Would be much better from a darksky site. Spent some time just sort of randomly wandering around the sky. Open cluster NGC 1342 in Perseus, Melotte 20 (best in binoculars), M34, M42/M43 region, M78, Orion's belt region, NGC 2238 Rosette neb can just detect a bit of nebulosity. To the south NGC 2362 Tau Canis Major, M93, M46 and M47, NGC 2451 and NGC 2477. Quick peek at Saturn and its moon Titan where the Huygens probe landed yesterday.
Worked late and didn't get home till about 9pm. But skies were clear so went out in the backyard to find comet Machholz now in Perseus. Quite visible to the naked eye and nice in 10x42 binoculars. Also brought out the TV76 but i think i almost enjoyed the binocular views more. Good to see stars again after all the cloudy/rainy weather!
Comet Machholz passed within 3° of the Pleiades star cluster tonight. Unfortunately it's still raining with rain forecast to continue into the middle of next week. But i did find some exceptional online photographs of the event. This closeup by Michael Jäger and Gerald Rhemann is perhaps the most impressive. Their color image taken a day earlier is very nice as well. Also this image by Hubert Querlioz is wonderful and contains a short meteor or satellite trail.
Lots of rain today in the desert so no stargazing tonight. But i did find a great picture of comet Machholz to share.
Hiked the Shannon trail to the plaque with Kai. Was a good little hike and nice that Kai came along. Lots of ferns and mosses in damp places along the trail. Not very desert-like. Before the hike i told Kai, who's 14, that someday in the future, after i'm dead and gone, that he'd regret not spending more time hiking with his dad. (I was mostly joking, and he knew i was mostly joking, but it was still nice to hike with him.)
Sometime around 6:30pm i stepped outside to take another look at the sky. Expecting to see nothing but gray i was surprised to be looking at stars! I'm not sure where the clouds from two hours earlier had gone but the sky was now clear in all directions. After eating a quick dinner i loaded up my Tele Vue 76 and Fujinon 16x70 binoculars and drove east to the Cottonwood canyon road. Didn't drive all the way to the campground but just set up in the little interpretive trail parking lot a couple miles north of I10. Turning off my headlights and stepping out into the dark i looked up to find comet Machholz a very easy and bright naked eye object. Through the TV76 the comet was considerably larger than seen from home. But the best view was with the 16x70 binoculars where a very faint delicate tail was visible stretching about 2° to the left (east). The comet looked very much like this image taken by Jeff Thrush. I didn't notice the blue color however. But i rarely see color in celestial objects. I didn't stay long as i'd left Kai home alone. I had tried to convince him to come along but standing out in the cold looking at the sky just isn't one of his interests right now.
I've still not seen comet Machholz from a darksky site and i thought today might be the day. Clear skies this morning and moon not rising till late evening. But alas, by mid-day high clouds had moved over from the west. Still, it looked clear to the east out Cottonwood way. I kept hoping. And waiting. But by 5pm skies look gray pretty much everywhere. And the forecast is for more rain for most of the coming week. Kai and i did take a nice short hike up the Shannon trail in the morning.
© Florian Boyd