Presidents Message – April 2002

Posted On April 1, 2002

Messed up Messier!

One advantage of the OCA's weather station at Anza is that it can be used to remotely view the conditions at the site and to decide whether or not to make the drive. It seems that many of you noticed the clouds out in the area on March 24th and decided to give it a miss this month. I don't blame you one bit. Of course I went anyway - as I had the duty on the Kuhn telescope along with Star Member Mike Batchelor. When I arrived the clouds were touching the peaks in the south valley and moving pretty quickly. The optimist in me did not want to let the situation get to me so I definitely hoped the fast moving stuff would mean that we would get some nice clear patches some time soon. Alas it was never to be. By sunset the clouds had really come in and the temperature was dropping ever lower to near freezing. There were even a few spots of wet stuff - so I never actually opened the observatory.

I was not the only lonely soul out at Anza that night. The photograph below shows a number of those that braved the conditions to see … virtually nothing.. Mostly everyone achieved a grand score of ZERO on the Messier list that night. Actually I saw M42 visually when I finally gave up and drove back down to Temecula - so I technically count that as a great score of 1 Messier object on the Messier Marathon night.


The brave and dedicated Messed up Messier Marathoners 2002

The photo above was taken at the Star Party at Anza on February 9th and shows the hard workers at the end of their days work. This same night I had to close the club observatory after only an hour of use as the wind was gusting over 50 miles-per-hour (and after last months "problems" with the roof - I did not want to risk any damage).

Near miss for Stephen Hawking

I heard that the legendary Stephen Hawking was going to be presenting at CALTECH last Friday (Mar 15) and having missed his last trip to the area I was determined not to miss the chance to hear him talk this time…

My wife and I took the day off work and headed for Pasadena ready to line up with the hoards of other Stephen Hawking groupies (mainly CALTECH students) early on Friday morning. Unfortunately we managed to just miss getting the tickets to the presentation (around 1000 people can fit in the auditorium). There was one last chance however as we were encouraged to come back for the presentation and line up for last minute tickets for people who didn't turn up. We came back at 6:30pm (the lecture began at 8pm) to find ourselves number 161 in the line for the spare tickets. The people at the front of the line had been there since 4pm. We decided to stick it out anyway - ever the optimists. As the time clicked away to 8pm it became pretty clear we would not get in. There was one last place for us to experience the lecture. The audio and the presentation slides were going to be shown in an adjacent building - and while we would not get to see professor hawking we would at least be able to hear his words of wisdom.

some of the die-hards waiting in line.
Anna - proudly showing our special
"standby and hope and pray that you'll get in" tickets,
a student from Caltech and a
member from LA Astronomical Society on the far right.

As we lined up to get into the auditorium we were all amazed as Stephen Hawking himself - accompanied by two of his close friends and helpers - came gliding right by us all. This was at least a great consolation prize for all of us! As he passed by the entire crowd (then 200) started a spontaneous applause to welcome him to the lecture.

His talk, titled "Brane New World", was very interesting and I will always remember the incredible way in which he brought the complex concepts into clear focus for all of us.

I feel so very lucky to live in a place where we have access to such world renowned thinkers. Even though I grew up in a town just a few miles away from Cambridge, where Stephen Hawking lives and works - I somehow feel I would have less of a chance of meeting him in person there.

Totally amazing!

Liam Kennedy
"every day we are connecting ever more photons of light from distant galaxies to the eyes, hearts, minds and imaginations of our members and others in our community."