Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting High!

So what do you do when the hot desert temperatures (made worse by the humidity of July and August) get you down? Well, many flee the 6 or 7 hours to San Diego and the Pacific shore where the high temperature approximates the ocean temperature of about 72F (21C). But there are closer alternatives, nearly as good - get high! Climb a mountain where the temperatures can easily drop 20F (10C) if you go up 4 or 5 thousand feet, available close to Tucson.

Yesterday we took part in a star party for incoming students to Optical Sciences. We started doing this particular event at least 10 or 12 years ago, held every August up at the Kitt Peak national Observatory picnic area. While the clouds and rain sometime limit observing, the cool mountain temperatures and catered meals (usually Mexican food) are a joyful break from the Tucson heat. Plus, you get the advantage of some great views - case in point is the thunderhead about 25 miles to our north here. Everyone has seen a rainstorm from underneath, but to be able to look across and see it eye-to-eye is really cool - you can see not only the anvil shape of the small thunderhead, but get an idea of how high it goes up and the drenching rain quenching the desert below.


We got to the picnic area well before sunset, and a few of us took a little walk before unpacking the scopes and joining in the mealtime activities. I had a favorite walk that was only a couple hundreds yards, if that, and provided some great views. It was on top of a 60 foot high (18m) boulder, requiring some scrambling on a slippery trail and climbing the boulders crack - another chance to "get high"! The view was spectacular, from the telescopes on the peak and an unobstructed view from north to south. I goaded our friend George to climb to get a view of the Kitt Peak lake he had never seen in many visits there, and I think he was rewarded with the view and his ability to climb the rock. Shown from left are friends Mike, Melinda, Donna, George and yours truly, photographer... And here is a shot of Melinda showing off her new short hairdo...

Eventually, sunset came and some striking cloud formations dissipated, revealing familiar summertime constellations and other luminous clouds of the Milky Way. Lines formed early as clouds cleared and darkness grew. It was a great night, but moisture from recent rains dewed up the correctors of the Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes quickly, leaving the best views for naked eyes and laser pointers! Our friend Mike pulled out a container of home made brownies, and it felt so decadent to sit back scanning the skies for meteors and satellites while inhaling the chocolate-laden treats and catching up with friends. It was a great night, but ended all too soon for the trip back to a warm Tucson. The nip in the mountain air had told us of the cooler fall temperatures to come...

2 comments:

Shannon and Alex said...

Humidity?? You don't have no stinkin' humidity!
Love Melinda's new 'do!!

Anonymous said...

Image #1 in this post is a really nice photo. Interesting composition and depth of field. Would likely make a great wallpaper. :D