Project Yosemite

3 03 2014

I’ve mentioned Yosemite a few times over the past two years. I have family in California’s Central Valley, and when we visit, it sometimes seems as if the mountains are literally calling to me. Skywatching is amazing up there (if you can get past your fear of being eaten by a cougar) and there is no shortage of photographs and films to prove it. To wit: Project Yosemite recently released a second timelapse, ostensibly documenting a 200+ mile backpacking trip, but really giving us a good view of the park’s changing skies. Their first video, released in 2012, was stunningly beautiful. Yosemite HD II may be even better.

ETA: The air traffic over Yosemite never ceases to amaze me.

Milky Way at Dawn in Yosemite Valley (Wallpaper Wednesday)

19 06 2013

Milky Way at Dawn in Yosemite Valley. Image courtesy Gregg L. Cooper

I wrapped up my California research trip with a weekend in Yosemite. In my mind, Lick Observatory and Yosemite Valley are linked landscapes; it seemed appropriate to go from archives to the park. We did some quality star gazing out behind our cabin, but as frequently happens on vacation, I was ready for bed well before the darkest observing hours. Luckily, photographers like Gregg Cooper are out there doing the hard work while the rest of us are resting up. Enjoy this particularly successful photo taken at Valley View; it’s a lovely combination of moving water, the Milky Way, and the growing glow of sunrise.

Click on the image to go to Mr. Cooper’s flickr page, where you can see this and other beautiful Yosemite photos.

Lick Observatory and Yosemite Valley

29 12 2011
Yosemite_Valley_as_seen_from_Mount_Hamilton, photograph, black and white

Yosemite Valley as seen from Mount Hamilton. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz

I’m on the road (again) next week. The last time I was in central California, I took a day to visit Lick Observatory. I can’t really count on that option this trip, since the road to Mount Hamilton closes during winter weather. While I was casting around on the Internet for other day trip options, I somehow managed to type both “Lick Observatory” and “Yosemite” in the Google search box. And look what that combination returned to me: a view from Mount Hamilton toward Yosemite Valley with Half Dome clearly visible. Looking the map, it doesn’t seem possible, but in fact, yes, it is. I found two other photographs in the UC Santa Cruz collection showing the same view.

This discovery prompted me to look at my own photos from Lick Observatory, but it’s obvious that I would’ve had to stand on top of Copernicus Peak to see Half Dome. That’s not an option for the average observatory visitor. I wonder: could I use my status as a university faculty member and a historian of astronomy to garner special hiking privileges? I’ll let you know next summer. I’m not sure how the poor air quality in the Central Valley would affect the view. Mount Hamilton rises above the smog pushing against it from the east and the west. Since Half Dome is about 400 feet higher than Copernicus Peak, it should rise above the haze as well, right?

Rumor has it that I can see Half Dome from Modesto. I would doubt it, except I’ve seen this photo taken in Patterson, between Modesto and the I-5 corridor, and this stunning photo taken in Turlock, south of Modesto. I’ll do some exploring and report back, even though it’s not directly connected to astronomical observatories.

CSU Stanislaus Observatory

8 01 2012
CSU-Stanislaus Observatory at Sunset

CSU-Stanislaus Observatory, January 6, 2012. Photo credit: JR

The Nora and Hashem Naraghi Hall of Science is a relatively new addition to the campus of Cal State Stanislaus. Designed by Perkins + Will (Hi, Ajla!) and completed in 2007 (see construction photos here), the building houses the departments of physics, biology, chemistry, and geology. As you can see from the photo above, it also houses the campus observatory. We made a quick stop at the building while in the area last week, but since it was the end of the day—and the middle of winter break—there wasn’t much more we could do than watch the late afternoon sun reflect off the dome [see my flickr page for a few more photos].

According to the CSUS observatory’s facebook page, the dome covers a 21-inch telescope that is occasionally made available for public viewings. The public events page hasn’t been updated recently but I imagine Prof. Christopher De Vries in the CSUS Physics Department has information about any outreach activities related to the observatory.

For those of you waiting to see the results of my Yosemite viewing experiment, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. The air quality in the Central Valley was not good last week. Although there were several places between Modesto and Turlock that should have provided prime mountain viewing opportunities, all we saw was smog. The haze stayed with us well above the 3000-foot elevation, as evidenced in the photos from our trip to Yosemite Valley last Friday.