October Desert Skies Report

Waiting for the stars

Waiting for the stars

Two weeks ago, Butch, my brother Dave and I went looking for dark skies close to home. Butch had taken a drive to Colonel Allensworth Stat Park, earlier in the year. He noticed that it was located in the middle of nowhere and thought that it would be a great place to view the sky. My brother Dave came from Reno to star gaze with us. We arrived at Allensworth about 7:00 pm. Well Butch was right. Allensworth is in the middle of nowhere! The observing site had a few problem though. Problem one; there were a lot or very bight mercury vapor lights to the south and north from near by homes and farms. Problem two; it is right next to train tracks. Maybe one hundred yards away. Problem three; the train headlights shine on the campground and can be seen from five miles away. You wouldn’t believe how many trains go past Allensworth at night. If you like trains it might be a great place to visit. There is a siding there where trains stop and wait for other trains to pass going in the opposite direction. Dave did set up his scope and we did do a little observing. We just looked at a few easy objects to find.

Saturday morning, we decided to take a chance an drive to our favorite spot in the desert. It is located on Hwy 14 near Red Rock Canyon. The reason I said “take a chance” is because the weather report said to expect winds up to 30 mph. We decided to go anyway. When we arrived, there was very little wind. Just a nice breeze. The temperature was perfect. About 78 deg. Late in the afternoon we setup our scopes. The sky condition was about an 8 out of 10 (10 being perfect). There was a little dust in the air form the wind which added a little sky glow from Mojave. The stars really didn’t focus down to points because of the wind in the upper atmosphere. Other than that it was a great night. Very pleasant viewing. We looked at the summer Milky Way and objects in Sagittarius, for the last time this season. Butch went to bed early about 10:30. Dave and I stayed up to watch Orion. It rose about 12:30 am. We got our first view of M41 for this winter. I never get tired of looking at that object.

Dave rebuilt his 10″ Coulter scope this summer. He mounted it on his German Equatorial Mount. Now the scope will track the stars. He can also use the setting circles to find objects. This was the first trip out into dark skies with the newly configured scope. He had a little disappointment. The clock drive wasn’t working so he couldn’t use his setting circles. We tried everything but couldn’t get it to work. When Dave got home, he checked it out and found that the power port on his battery pack was not working. The clock works. It just needs power. I don’t know why we didn’t think about trying another power pack when we were out there. I guess we just “assumed” it was working because everything else on the power pack worked. Live and learn.

We had a really great time. I just love the desert when the skies are clear and the wind doesn’t blow. You can’t beat the mystery of the desert and its great horizon!

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Greg Eckes


I am a retired music teacher. I make custom violins and violas. I play violin in the Tulare County Symphony and fiddle in the Tule River Bluegrass Band. I like camping and astronomy.


2 thoughts on “October Desert Skies Report

  1. Deva-Denise October 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Glad you guys had a chance to go and had a good time! I found a website that lists dark sky sites here in California. Maybe we can plan a TAA Field Trip some time. Here’s the site http://www.observingsites.com/ds_ca.htm#pine

  2. Greg Eckes
    Greg Eckes October 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    That is a good idea. Thanks for posting the link.

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