Dave Bertrand with a future astronomer
We had a lot of fun at last Saturday’s get together with the Grand Valley Gold Prospectors Club. It all started when WCAC member Ken Alvey suggested the two clubs might benefit from a joint event, and Charles Grandmaison, GVGPC’s President graciously invited us to their picnic and outing. It was held at the old CCC camp roughly a mile after the pavement ends on Lands End Road as you head to the Mesa from Hwy 50. The camp buildings are long gone, but the stone foundations still remain with level spots where we could set up telescopes. The scenery was great, and we were treated to a spectacular gold/blue sunset. My guess is the CCC picked that spot for their camp because the road below is still passable in Winter.
After the pot luck supper, we waited a bit for the skies to clear and then everyone enjoyed views of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and some of the brighter double stars and clusters. It was a fine evening spent with some great folks who truly appreciate the wonders of nature. I’ll echo the thanks expressed by others in the astronomy club for the fellowship and hospitality extended to us by GVGPC.
Last night at the WCAC board meeting I mentioned an article
on the KREX TV web site about the Colorado National Monument's plans for developing some facilities at the east entrance. There's an open house for discussing the plans on Dec. 18. Since we do a lot of programs at the Monument, club members may wish to attend and either learn more or make comments.
Read the article here:
Colorado National Monument Developing Additions to Celebrate 100th Anniversary
We closed out the 2014 viewing event calendar with last night’s get together at the Saddlehorn area on the Monument. Skies were a bit hazy to start but cleared up nicely after sunset. Six club members and several guests enjoyed views of a thin crescent Moon, Mars, Neptune, Uranus, and Comet Jaques 2014. The International Space Station made a bright appearance in a pass at 8 PM and was visible for a few minutes before fading into the darkness of the Earth’s shadow.
The viewing session last night featured hazy skies (courtesy of fires in Canada and the NW) but some steady air and relatively good seeing conditions made it all worthwhile. Despite the smoke, we had nice views of Mars and Saturn. Mars is showing a distinct phase (86%) as it moves away from opposition and the polar cap area and surface markings were visible in Tom Burrows’ apo. Saturn put on its usual fine show and a visiting family of four with two school age children were awed by the grand sight of the ringed planet. The air was steady enough that even a pair of 15X binoculars revealed an oval shape when looking at Saturn.
Our monthly meeting was held in room 160 of Wubben Hall (Rm 161 was locked) with eight members and no guests. President Douglas Grodt and VP Tom Burrows were not able to attend, and club secretary Dave Bertrand stepped in to run the meeting. Blanche Godel announced that she would step down as Treasurer at the end of the year and the office would be open. Jim McSheehy showed photos from his recent visit to the Rocky Mountain Star Stare near Gardner, Colorado.
We discussed the use of Mesa Top as a location for the 2014 Star Party, and given its remote location and poor access, the consensus was an alternate site might be preferable. Locations discussed included CNM, BS road on Glade Park, a BLM area west of Cedar Edge, Rabbit Valley overlook, and “renting” use of a private area on Glade park in exchange for allowing the owner a tax deduction.
Last Saturday several of us met at the new viewing site on the Grand Mesa, the Mesa Top parking area. The site has a large paved parking lot, restrooms, and is somewhat shielded from nearby Hwy 65 by a row of pine trees. At 10,700 feet elevation, the skies there are clear and extremely dark (SQM-L reading 21.7). We were able to observe Mars, Saturn, and numerous DSOs and other than a few mosquitos early on, the conditions were ideal. When I left around 1:30 AM, the temperature had dropped into the mid-30s and there was a definite nip in the air! My drive down the mountain was harrowing as I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in three days, and the change in altitude made me very drowsy.
Paved area with no dust
No nuisance lights
Darkest skies we’ve seen nearby
Over an hour away from town
Difficult drive at night
No cell phone service (have to drive about a mile north on Hwy 65 to get a signal)