Thursday, May 9, 2019

Day 3423

I've been trying to think of an interesting way to occupy my time. Maybe astronomy vacations are a thing. Well yes, actually they are. I was surprised at how many options are available. In December of 2020 you can take a three week cruise around the tip of South America to view a total eclipse of the sun off the coast of Patagonia. This one's a little pricy, but you do get to go to Antartica. More reasonable are a wide variety of dark sky photo workshops. These workshops seem to take place in spectacular remote locations like Joshua Tree National Park or Badlands National park. It doesn't seem to be easy to fly into places like these, but I guess that's what cars are for. Prices vary considerably but the workshops are quite small and all seem to led by well known astrophotographers.

One of the most interesting options are the Special Viewing Nights at McDonald Observatory. Several times a year a select group of people get a chance to look at the heavens through one of the three large research telescopes at the observatory. How cool would it be to spend an evening looking through the 82" Otto Struve Telescope. Professional astronomers often wait months for an opportunity to use this famous telescope because skies at the observatory are still among the darkest in the world. You can take Amtrack to Alpine, Texas too. I'm sure there are other interesting things out there. I've just started looking.

The bad thing about astronomy vacations is that you really have to plan ahead to take advantage of these very limited opportunities. Only a few people at a time are able to get observatory access or attend a dark sky workshop. So what happens if you arrive for an event you planned months earlier and it's cloudy or raining? You lose. There is just no way to guarantee a clear day months in advance.

Weather is really unpredictable. I can't even guarantee a clear day tomorrow. It rained a little bit today, but I was able to take my walk. You see some strange things in the park. For the past week I've noticed a guy with a huge pair of calipers measuring tree trunks. He seems to be measuring every tree in the park. He writes down the diameter of the tree in a little book and then moves on the the next tree. Why? I guess I could ask him some day. I've started noticing the same runners and cyclists day after day. Often our paths cross at almost exactly the same spot. I guess I'm not the only one who keeps a rigid schedule.

I saw a film crew setting up to shoot a commercial in the park as I started my walk this morning. They were still setting up when I returned. I wouldn't be surprised if the crew spent all day to film something that lasted fifteen seconds. I used to do this. For once I felt glad that I was retired.

Spot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day