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SJAA Glacier Point weekend

Jane Houston Jones

SJAA President Michael Koop sets up loaner scope #39 for an exceptional night of viewing at Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome. Photo by Jane Houston Jones

This intrepid group of San Jose astronomers provided sky shows for dozens of Yosemite tourists over two nights in July.


Glacier Point 37N 119W
Limiting magnitude 6.8 to 3.4
July 25 and 26 2003

Everybody writes about the fantastic views. It's Yosemite, after all. The 7200 foot elevation. The granite. The sky. The clear air. Aiming a telescope at half dome before sunset and watching the rock climbers settle in for the night at twilight. Sunset. Alpenglow over the Sierra. The first star. The milky way. The oohs and aahs of the visitors. The sight and sound of Nevada Falls across the valley at midnight. Moonrise over half dome. Dawn.

I've been to Glacier Point many times for astronomy club weekends. To me the best part of the Yosemite weekend is spending time with fellow astronomers. Two or three nights of camping, of telescope setup, tinkering with equipment, astro murmurs, views. Sharing information, listening to the person at the next telescope explain the Swan Nebula, and thinking, "dang, I wish I'd said that."

The SJAA goes to Yosemite every year. As Jim Van Nuland says, there is no such thing as a bad weekend at Yosemite. This year we had thunder and lightning at sunset, followed by clouds and late sprinkles on Saturday night. But at midnight the sky cleared and we had a great view of Mars. Friday night was great, and Thursday night (of course) was the best. Only Mojo, Bob Brauer and I were there. Ask us about it sometime, and if we can wipe the smile off our faces, we'll tell you about the superb night we had.

Saturday night we set up next to Jim Van Nuland. We talked about Yosemite. We talked about astronomy. We talked about equipment. We just talked. And in-between, we aimed our telescopes at this object or that object. At the next telescope, Rob Hawley was asked by a young girl "Do you love the sky?" He showed her the answer. No words were necessary.


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