Desert Play

Greetings from sunny southern California!  It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here 6 days already.  They have been busy days, but mostly not involving astronomy.  Above is the beginning of a portrait of 2 dinosaurs playing in the desert near where we’re staying.  They are actually metal sculptures, of course, but supposedly life-size.  The images are inverted in a crystal ball that my wife gave me for this purpose.  I also captured the scene with focus on the statues and the background.  When they are suitably combined everything will be in sharp focus.

Slightly more astronomy related is this close-up of one the dinos.  That’s the crescent Moon to the right of his head:

But I have at least attempted some astronomy here.  Last Sunday I and a friend drove down to the observing site of the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA) to join a guy I met at the Oregon Star Party last year.  He wanted to get some astrophotography lessons from me and I was interested in using his equipment, since I was not able to bring anything very large on this trip.  The SDAA site is very well developed, with locations for small, portable systems; semi-permanent sites (mostly just fixed piers); and full-size observatory buildings housing both private and club-owned systems.  Unfortunately, since the site was established (I think that was in the mid-1970s) the light pollution from San Diego and other cities has steadily grown.  The site is very close to the Mexican border, so now there is an additional threat of light pollution from nearby security lighting.  Local light is also a problem in some parts of the site, since homes have been built on adjacent lots.  We were near one such home, and they had Christmas lights around the house that were on all night.

It was very cold and windy that night, so we might not have had much luck with imaging anyway, but we spent most of the night solving various equipment issues and going over some of the basics of image capture.  I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures of the site.  That would help a lot in understanding what it’s like there, but it’s not visually interesting, so I didn’t think of it.

We went out again last night – to a much more local site.  The small telescope and mount I brought are gear I seldom use, and the camera is brand new (the ZWO ASI1600), so getting set up was more difficult than usual.  In the end, the forecast of clear skies turned out to be highly inaccurate, so we wrote off the night as a practice run, and it was probably a good idea to get this practice.  The biggest issue was not having enough battery capacity to run everything all night.  We’re planning to go out again tonight with a better power source, my Toyota PriusC.  When the car is left on it will automatically start the engine as needed to keep the battery charged.  This is somewhat inefficient, but much better than leaving a gas engine running all night.

There are far too many interesting places to visit in southern California.  On our drive back from the SDAA site we took a side trip over Mt. Laguna, and stopped for breakfast in the town of Julian, which is popular for 2 things I like; astronomy and pie.  As soon as I finish the first pie I bought there, we’ll be making another trip to Julian.


About Greg Marshall

I am a retired electronics engineer and after a few months of enjoying my leisure I began to miss doing product development. My astronomy hobby always needed new solutions to unique problems, so I decided that whenever I came up with a good solution I would try to make it available to others.

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