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Night at Joshua Tree National Park

| Last night the usual suspects went up to Joshua Tree National Park in hopes of seeing the meteor showers. Frankly, they fell far short of a "shower," or even a "drizzle." More like an "isolated sprinkle" or two. Of course, we were a day late....

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The first stop, now obligatory, was at KFC in Yucca Valley to stock up on fried foods for dinner. As usual, Ken came prepared with coupons clipped from the paper. Choices, choices. We settled for the bucket with cake (choice of chocolate or lemon) and an extra side of baked beans.

As soon as we were parked at our usual spot on Geology Tour Road, we broke open the champagne and tucked into the chicken. Thank goodness for those "moist towelettes" that Ken brought for each of us.

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Then Ken set up his new telescope, won in a drawing at an astronomy expo in Oceanside, sponsored by a telescope store there. He had been absolutely convinced that he had to go to the expo because they were going to give away a large number of prizes, and he was sure he was going to win. Uh, huh, right! Damned if he didn't win one of the big prizes of the day, a high-end telescope with a MSRP of $900, presented by the president of the company in person.

Our faith was shaken briefly when Ken announced after several minutes that he couldn't find the moon with his telescope, even though the moon was there in plain view in a crystal-clear sky. With the aid of the spotting scope, however, the situation was rectified, and we got an amazing view of the craters of the moon that equaled those photos you see in astronomy books.

Besides the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and, later in the evening, Jupiter were all visible. Some of us claimed to be able to see the rings of Saturn through the telescope, although I can't personally vouch for that since what I saw was a bright circle with irregularly shaped colored blobs. Jupiter, on the other hand, was clearly visible along with three of its moons, all in a perfectly straight line.

The planets taken care of, we turned our chairs to the northeast to watch for meteors. For a while it looked like we would see more satellites (four) than meteors, but eventually we did see several meteors, including a couple of big ones that streaked boldly across a large arc of the sky.

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Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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