The 24 Incher to Mexico
Not sure if JD or one of the SA Members wrote/contibuted to
This year the Summer Scientific Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
was held in Ensenada,
Mexico. Partly because it was scheduled immediately
following the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference, near
Lake, and partly because one of the Sidewalk Astronomers wanted to present a paper at the Summer Scientific
Meeting, we decided to take the 24 incher and go. We went. (Copies of the paper On
the Rest Mass of Cuckoo Clocks are
available for those who want them.)
We were invited to
give a slide show for the Peninsula Astronomical Society at Foothill College on the way, and to
spend the night at Mountain View, so that we could get an early start next morning for the long drive
to the San
Bernardino Mountains. (We left Mountain View at about
11:15 next morning, several hours too late to reach the Conference
in time to set up the 24 for the first evening of the conference, Friday, May 9th.) The Conference site was Camp
Oaks at 7,300 ft. in the San Bernardino Mountains. Sometimes clear and sometimes smoggy,
the site was clear on Friday
night and smoggy on Saturday, and late
on Friday night the turbulence was also low. But due to our late departure from
Mountain View we were unable to set up the telescope that night so that, in spite of our efforts and expense, the
telescope could be used only on Saturday night when the transparency and turbulence
were much worse than what we
usually have at Fremont Peak State Park.
Sorry about that.
There were about 200 people at the conference and nearly eighty telescopes were entered for judging. The
special award to the 24 incher read "light bucket" of 1975. One outstanding
paper, presented at the conference, won
popular acclaim. It was on
structural rigidity by a young man from Shasta. We asked him to present a paper at the
triple convention of the Western Amateur Astronomers, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers
Astronomical Association of Northern California. (That convention
is to be held in San Francisco on August 7th, 8th,
9th and 10th.
For information call 567-2063.)
The Riverside Conference was over on Sunday morning, May 11th, and we fled to Mexico with the 24 incher.
This was its first trip abroad.
On the toll road to Ensenada we were passed by a small car from which we were greeted with enthusiastic
On the general principle that in a strange land one
should keep in touch with friends we hastened headlong after that
conspicuously exceeding the posted speed limits. That car was still in sight when we pulled up to the last toll
plaza and the driver pulled over and allowed us to pull along side. When we tried
to tell them where we were going,
the driver said, "We know
where you are going. Would you like to follow us? She is one of the secretaries to the
conference." They very kindly took us to the La Pinta Hotel where we found a bevy of astronomers
boozing and introducing
themselves to each other.
Darkness had fallen
by the time we arrived so we checked the sky. The turbulence was dreadful and the fog
was intermittent. We parked the telescope in front of the hotel. There it sat Sunday night, Monday night,
night. Wednesday morning the Mayor of Ensenada gave a breakfast
banquet for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
and, after breakfast,
invited us to set up the big telescope in the Civic Plaza of the Monuments that evening so that the
people could see it even though the weather made it impossible to use it. He assigned the Militia to
The three days of professional papers finished at noon on Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, after the amateur papers,
including On the Rest Mass of Cuckoo Clocks, we set up Delphinium in the Plaza. Then,
for the first time since our
arrival in Mexico, the evening skies
cleared, and some four hundred viewers got to look through the 24 incher at Saturn.
Someone had a 4-1/2 incher and someone else, a 3-1/2" Questar. With these smaller scopes on Venus and the moon
and the 24 on
Saturn (wide open) we entertained till the fog came
in some time before 10 p.m. The viewers were extremely well behaved
the Militia kept watch with rifles and steel hats. When the fog closed the viewing, the people pleaded with us over
and over to come again. We asked (by sign language) when the sky would be free of
clouds and were told June, July and
August or sometimes July and
August. Some day, perhaps, we'll go again.
At the Riverside Conference the turbulence was so bad that Cassini's division in Saturn's
rings could scarcely be
seen, even through much smaller telescopes,
yet here in Ensenada hundreds of people could see it very easily and very
well through the 24 incher wide open. It was a good show.
On the last day in Ensenada we visited the Observatario Astronomico Nacional. It is
at 9,000 ft. and commands a
view of the Pacific to the west and the
Gulf of California to the east. They have a good 32 incher and a 60 inch which
is a pig. One of us volunteered to re-figure the 60" but withdrew when he found out it was aluminum. It is too
that we lacked the experience with aluminum mirrors. The staff
was eager to detain us, and it would be sheer delight
to the improvement of a 60 incher at 9,000 ft. Sorry about that.
The trip to and from the observatory took about 10 hours, and one of the Sidewalk
Astronomers availed himself of the
long sought opportunity to talk
at length with Dr. Margaret Burbidge. They talked for most of that day. There were so
many, many things he needed to know.
Next morning we left for home by way of the California Institute of Technology at
Pasadena where we stopped as the
guests of Terry Terman to hear some
very interesting lectures at the 38th Annual Seminar of the Caltech Alumni Association.
We spent the night before the Seminar
at the home of Clifford Holmes and family in Riverside to our great comfort
and delight. The last night, Saturday, we spent in the Buttonwillow rest area, and we reached home on Sunday, the
18th of May.
There were many interesting bits of information tucked away in the three days of professional
papers. There is much
more evidence now that material is leaving
the stars (even very young stars) rather than falling into them. In addition
to the silicates that predominate in the interstellar dust clouds, the clouds also contain large amounts of silicon
carbide and water ice. Here on earth silicon carbide sells for about a dollar a pound
under the name Carborundum.
Finally at the Holmes' home in Riverside, Pat Michaud gave us a tape of a recent lecture by Sir Fred
his new speculation on what may have happened in the
universe about 15 billion years ago -- the event that is usually
to as the "big bang".
Still refusing to accept the view that at 15 billion years ago the entire universe was in a very small
which it exploded outward, he suggests that the universe
may not actually be expanding but rather that the atoms themselves
be getting smaller and smaller. He points out that if the atoms get smaller they must also get more massive. He
suggests that the increase of mass is due to increasing gravitational interactions
since the time 15 billion years
ago, which he interprets as an actual
time boundary between a previous universe in which gravitational interactions were
with a sign opposite to those on our side of the boundary. He suggests that gravitational interactions across the
boundary at 15 billion years ago cancel each other leaving the
particles with low or zero rest mass.
Now if the particles were large then, and with low mass, their radiation would at that time be greatly
the radiation from the previous universe coming to us
through the boundary would be thermalized to 3 ° K.
It is a most interesting lecture and we have the tape for those who wish to hear it.
It explains the cosmic background
radiation and the cosmological
red shift in an entirely new way.