Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Chabot Space & Science Center
Trip Date: June 20, 2009
Report Author: Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: June 22, 2009

Examining the difference between gas giants, deep-space gas,
kim-chee gas and amateur astronomer gas

Seven persons showed up for the Chabot Space & Science Center field trip held Saturday evening, June 20 on the eve of the longest day of the year.

Why schedule a night field trip on the longest day of the year? You ask. Well, the last time I was at a Chabot weekend star party I nearly froze my asteroids off! Unfortunately, our collective asteroids were pretty chilly this last Saturday, too. Saturday happened to be an unseasonably cold last day of spring (as well as very humid). Well, so much for dwelling upon the things that went wrong.

Much went right, however, because more than one person remarked that they had a good time and found the limited telescope viewing opportunities to be fascinating. (The unseasonable high humidity almost shut them all down.) I was particularly mesmerized by the two glimpses of the planet Saturn I saw through two telescopes. Our view of Saturn with the rings nearly end-on will not be repeated for another 15 years. It made for a very surreal view of the second largest gas giant planet in our solar system.

We also saw Arcturus, a star some 37 light years away through the observatory's large refracting telescope. (According to the astronomer docent, light from the early Shag-carpet Epoch of the 1970s was reaching us.) The star was visible while it was still light outside, proving that stars are visible during the daytime they just aren't noticeable.

As the dusk faded into night and the temperatures plummeted, we took looks through some of the volunteer astronomers' scopes that were set up on the little plaza near the three observatory domes. Along with the free view comes the accompanying commentary of the telescope operator (and some of it can be pretty dry, long-winded and tangental). This time we were drilled through with some anti-National Star Registry rhetoric. (NSR you know, those guys that give your loved ones' names to a star-or dustspeck on their star chart.) Of course scientists don't search for the names of your beloved "Grandma Phyllis Upsom-Moore" or your dear uncle, "Waldemere Putzschtick" when they look for stars to research. They use designations such as, Orion object T-364. Neither do they care that you gave $19.95 to the NSR for the sentimental act of having some charlatan give a light point in the sky a name. They would rather you send your $20-dollar donation to their particular research institution instead of wasting it on a certificate not worth the price of the paper it is copied upon. There! End of lecture! I did it in about a half hour less time than the fellow with the Newtonian refractor telescope sitting in the lawn chair.

You gotta be careful at these kind of events, because these amateur astronomers can be pretty boring almost as bad as model train afficionados (especially the ones in the engineers caps) and considerably worse than those who talk about camera accessories! (Sorry, but, sadly, it is true.) But look on the bright side fellow camera club members, we are considerably less boring than the bird watchers! If what I just revealed makes you angry, then just ask your non-member spouse before you come down here brandishing a 36-inch railroad wrench to crack my noggen.

This lack-of-interest qotient is exactly what I was fighting when myself and a few loyal comrades established the Foodies contingent of our club. The foodies are using the power of the calory to battle the burden of boredom. Face it, you re much more interesting when you are chatting over a table-load of pasta, or prime rib, or chow mein than you are standing on the side of a beautiful lake vista talking endlessly about lenses and pixels and resolving power, etc. while the sun slides westward. (As uncle Putzschtick would say: "You gonna shoot or you gonna talk?") Our contention is that if you re going to be wasting time, operating your mouth you should be indoors, putting something in it rather than outdoors leaking the vital air you need to fill your lungs! Don't take my word for it, Granma Phyllis will also tell you to "Eat, dearie! You don't want to blow away!".

Our foodies this last Saturday did some serious work toward that common goal. We efficiently dispatched a table of delectible Korean delights prior to our arrival at Chabot. Let me tell you, we were shoveling the kim-chee like a Chicago bucket brigade during the Great Fire! The food at the Sister House was very good and this little "Mom & Pop" restaurant is well worth the drive to Hayward. If your taste buds aren't exactly tuned to Korean flavors, then just down the street near the 238 interchange is Banchero's Italian Restaurant-a holdover from the old school Italian restaurant of the 1950s and 1960s. It is industrial-strength Italian (like our very own Original Joes in San Jose). I ate there in the 1970s (probably about the same time that the light from the star was passing out of the Antares system) and found it to be a near-religious experience. I hope to mobilize the Foodies and make an assult on the place in the not-too-distant future.

(With apologies to model train afficionados, bird watchers, camera club members and some astronomers.)

Thanks for listening to my rant!
Live long and prosper!

© 2009 S.R. Hinrichs