Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Star Party

Posted by Hippo Bean at 2:00 AM
The biggest telescope I've seen was in the Alapacha Observatory in Huatajata in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, back in 1998. The telescope was a gift from NASA. It was a freezing night of southern star gazing at an altitude of 12,300ft. I remember the lecture and then the roof opened into a clear cold starry night. It was what I've told Tomaso when he asked me if I've ever looked through a giant telescope. But Al's telescope was bigger. 32" diameter, he polished the mirror himself. I've looked through the opening of the telescope and he told me not talk so I wont be spitting into the mirror! We were in Bonny Doon airport, just above Santa Cruz, and the night wasnt exactly cloudless but clear enough to see Saturn and its magnificent rings plus Titan, Venus and later Jupiter, both so bright they mercilessly almost blinded the Hippo's eyes. Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto were lined up. Mars was faint and tiny but still visible. Then Al turned the giant scope and we had to climb a ladder to look through the eyepiece. 'Dont touch the telescope' Al kept saying. With the slightest movement, it would throw the thing out of focus. The Ring Nebula, the Veil Nebula and the Lagoon Nebula were all blurred into one after a while. All I remember was what looked like pieces of glass with a light at the center. Mysterious. The DumbBell Nebula, which Hippo's dubbed the DingDong Bell was a blur. With naked eyes, we could see the Constellation of Scorpius with the Steaming Teapot on its tail (I say it doesnt look anywhere like a steaming teapot). The Milky Way was indeed very 'milky'. Mely pointed out the Northern Cross, a first for the Hippo. We even followed a few travelling satellites and a few shooting stars completed our Star Party. Joining us were a few other amateur astronomers with their homemade telescopes, and even 2 attached with photo cameras and laptops for digital images. We ate sushi under starry night. It was cold but the company of friends, astronomy lovers and the stars and planets (and even the satellites) warned us up.
Al and his gihugic telescope

Amateur telescope with photo camera

Earlier in the day we completed the Mission tour by re-visiting the now open and restored Mission San Miguel. When we visited it back in 2007, it was closed for renovation and we could only admire the dilapidated outside. The walls that surrounded the compound still looked like they're crumpling down, and I've wondered what exactly did they restored? But at least this time we could visit the chapel, the museum and the cemetery. On our way down, we again stopped at Soledad. Nothing changed there. We found a Basque restaurant in town on T's Android but it was closed. We ended up having nice burgers at the HonkyTonk with a very hospitable waitress. Too bad it was too early for the strippers. Nice place with good western flavor, but what is it doing in the town of San Miguel?

See pictures of Mission San Miguel


Anonymous said...

Very nice account of our adventure! However I must point out that Al's instrument is not 32 inches. No, it is a freakishly small 20 inches. (I thought it was the men who usually exaggerated this stuff).


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