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Crater Lake, British Columbia and Mount Kobau 1986

 

 This summer, the Sidewalk Astronomers were invited to attend the five-day star party at Mount Kobau in British Columbia. It's

an annual event like the Table.Mountainetar party in Washington, and it falls on the same Weekend. The invitation came early from

Craig Mc Caw of Vancouver, B.C. That allowed us time to arrange for some public service programs on the way up and back; so we went. Up

in the Northland they have a problem which we don't have to face here, it doesn't stay dark very long in the summer. They cannot schedule

star parties for June because it may not get dark at all, and even in August they get only four hours of darkness at Mount Kobau, and they

cherXish it as a prized possesion. No lights are allowed between 10:30 and 4:00 except dim red flashlights. All cars which are to be driven

In the dark must be parked far away. The problem is not very different for Washington, and that's why the three-day star party at Table

Mountain and the five-day star party at Mount Kobau fall on the same weekend. That was unfortunate for us. We'd like to have gone to both

of them.

 

On receipt of the invitation, we arranged for a one-night stand with an eighteen incher and a little sun telescope in Ashland, Oregon,

then for ten nights at Crater Lake National Park, also in Oregon, then for four nights in Seattle, Washington for the Astronomical League

Convention, followed by a two-week tour of the British Columbia provincial parks on the way to Mount Kobau. All went acording to schedule,

and we stopped on the way back for a program at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Seattle, and for one more talk in Ashland.

 

With a crew of two, we left for Ashland on the last day of June with the 18 incher on board, and an 11 incher, a small sun telescope

and what we thought was a box of slides for the slide shows. But when we came to give the slide show in Ashland, we found that the slide box

was empty. The slides were still in San Francisco where we had been trying to repair a projector to take on this trip. So we borrowed

some slides, and a tray, and went on with the program before an unexpectedly enthusiastic audience. I wish we had known then that we

would stop there on our way back so that all those people could have known.

 

Next morning, before we could start for Crater Lake, we had to have the starter replaced in the van; so we arrived at the Lake rather

late in the afternoon. But we managed, somehow, to get the telescopes set up and gave a slide show with our borrowed slides. We stayed there

for the first ten nights of July with some rain and one snow storm, on the Fourth of July. Gerard Pardeilhan, and two companions, brought the

24 incher up from Berkeley (and our slides) on the 3rd. But that night it rained, then it froze, then it snowed till four in the afternoon.

On the evening of the Fourth we set up the telescopes for a very small audience. Some of the visitors had gone to watch the fireworks at

Diamond Lake, and some were intimidated by the cold and snow. But on the night of the 5th we had 110 at the slide show and more than that

at the telescopes, and the skies were very favorable. Hank Tanski, the chief naturalist, had the bright lights turned off at the concessions

building, and we could see the spiral arms of ML181 through The Little One (the 18 incher), and NGC 4565, which we call Bernice's Hairclip,

spread most of the way across the eyepiece field in the Twentyfour. About seven and a half million light-years from us, M-81 is the spiral

companion of a Seyfert galaxy, M-82. Seyferts are much like quasars. Their radiation is-characterized by bright speCtral lines. The light

from ordinary galaxies, like our-own, is mostly star light, whereas quasar light is the radiation from a hot gas in-a good vacuum, like

the light of a mercury vapor lamp. M-82 is more like that. NGC 4565 is the beautiful edge-on spiral in Coma Berenices (Bernice's Hair).

The disc is very dusty; so it takee a fairly large teleecope and very dark skies to see it well. It was partly through studying this galaxy

that the astronomers realized that galaxies have "coronas" (unseen matter, more massive than the visible galaxy, and spread out beyond the

galaxy's observable boundary).

 

Probably the best seeing we had at Crater Lake was the 5th of July, after the snow storm, and the 24 was still there. But the 24

came without its ladder and the tallest ladder we could find was only nine feet tall; so the objects high in the sky like the Ring Nebula

and the Great Star Cluster in Hercules had to be seen through the 18. That freed the 24 for Saturn, Mars and the Dumbell. The Dumbell, like

the Ring, is a gaseous nebulosity around an old star. When a large star, much more massive than our Sun, reaches the red giant stage, it

may lose as much as five solar masses of hydrogen and helium as steller winds. This exposes the hot core whose steller winds come off by a

different mechanism, and at a much higher velocity, and catch up to only the tail end of the hydrogen'and helium and make such pretty

things as the Dumbell and the Ring. The material involved in those nebulosities is only about a tenth of a solar mass, whereas the original

star may have weighed as much as eight or ten times as much as our Sun.

 

The Twentyfour went home on the morning of the 6th, and the two of us remaining went for a boat trip around the Lake at the invitation of

the boat crew, and had lunch on Wizard Island. They invited us once more, a few days later, and heaped our van with food one morning while

we were away--canned fruit juice, potato chips, cookies, apples, oranges and sandwiches--dozens of sandwiches. Many thanks! We were

badly out of food.

 

It was cloudy on the night of the tenth; so we packed the van in the evening. That allowed us to get an early start next morning

for the long drive to Seattle, where we arrived just in time for the evening meeting of the Astronomical League. We stayed there for four

nights, and Jack Marling's talks on astronhotography, especially with filters, were very interesting. On the second night there was a star

party, and we set up the 18, but the sky was overcast and we could see only Saturn.

 

We had a jolly time crossing the border into Canada. We arrived a little before our hosts from the H.R.MacMillan Flanitarium, and the

customs officer sent us several miles away to wait at the commercial gate which we approached from the Canadian side. After going through

U.S. Customs to get back to the Canadian side, we waited for our hosts for two hours. Then we instigated a phone call to the other gate

where they had been waiting for us. When our friends arrived, we were afraid for a while that we faced a five hundred dollar fee for bringing

such large telescopes across the border, and the check from the Planetarium was not acceptable at the customs office. But when the officer

came out to lo-,k at them, he decided that they were fifty cents under the value for which we would have to nay anything, and let us go.

 

Our first program in Canada was at the H.R.MacMillan Planetarium in Vancouver where we tried to repeat the talk that caused such a stir

at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles last September. It was called "Falling and Coasting Around the Sun", and it began and ended with a

blurb under the dark planetarium sky with music.

 

"Orbits closed and open, orbits curved and straight

but why are we weightless in orbit? and what is mass and weight?

"We move in conic sections, but why do we mcve at all?

and once we're set in motion, why do we coast and fall?"

 

Some of these questions are easy and some of these questions are hard, and at the close of the planetarium program, most of the audience followed

us to the neighboring Gordon Southern Observatory for an hour and a half of discussion. Had the sky been clear that night we'd have set

up the telescopes in a near by park, but the sky was rainy; so we talked.

 

For the next two weeks we ran through the British Columbia provincial parks under the auspices of the Community Astronomy Program that

operates out of that planetarium. They run through the parks and through the schools with two seventeen and a half inch telescopes and with talks

and slide shows, and we were extremely proud of them for doing that. They were with us three times, once at Golden Ears, once on Mt. Seymour,

and, finally, at the star party on Mt. Kobau. The weather at Mt. Kobau was better than most of the weather which had followed us through the

provincial parks. This was not a good summer for astronomy in British Columbia. Although we had a few good nights and some passable nights,

too many nights were either rainy or overcast and limited our operation to slide shows, discussions and an occasional glimpse, through the suntelescope,

of the almost spotless Sun. Probably our best night was our last night at Manning, when we set up the 18 incher at the Lightening

Lakes Day Use Area after the slide show. There we had lots of pecple on a flat parking lot under very good sky, and although Mars

never cleared the hills across the lake, we had Saturn to start with, Jupiter to end with and everything else we could use including, I think,

a better view of the Andromeda Galaxy and MCC 205 (its dim companion) than we had at Mount Kobau. NGC 205 spanned more than half an eyepiece

field in the 18 at 100x.

 

Mount Kobau stands at the western edge of th e Okanagan Valley at sixtytwo hundred feet, over the town of Osoyoos which is situated by

a lake in the midst of Canada's "fruit basket". We got apricots the size of small peaches, juicy and delicious. The twelve mile dirt road

up the mountain starts about five miles from the town. The mountain was selected, some twenty years ago, as the most suLtatle site in Canada

for a proposed 4 meter telescope. The road was built for that but it is a very dusty trek. We had one good rain storm to squelch the dust,

but it squelched some other things as well. But one evening we had a fabulous, long-lasting rainbow. Both arcs were very clear. And we had

lightening. But over all it was a very successful star party, and we heard a very interesting talk on what Herschel called Planetary Nebulae.

It was given by Dr. Chris Purton of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. He left us with an unsolved problem. The computer said,

if I remember rightly, that ty the time the stellar core is exposed, the last of the stellar winds of the red giant phase should have been

long gone. 

 

 The Table Mountain.Star Party, in the state of Washington, differs from the Mount Kobau event in that it is only a star party,

whekees the star party at Mount Kobau under the auspices' of the Okanagan Astronomical Society, like Stellafane or the Riverside Telescope

Makers Meeting, includes talks.and a telencope makers competition, and we were asked to join the judges in the competition. It

was very difficult. It's like :comparing red, moist and up. The categories are so different that comparative judging bedomes almost impossible.

What we did was to suggest improvements and help them rebuild before the closinghour. Then we awarded the prizes, and the

prize for superior optics could not be awarded because there was no competition. The cnly telestope in the 'competition with a home-made

mirror was our 18 incher. With the possible exception of one of the 20 incheks, it was the only largetelestope with home made optics.

Most of them were made by Coulter, who in 1983 donated two 13 inch Odysseys for us to take 'to India. Many thanks! They are still there.

 

At Mount Kobau I had the best view of the Veil Nebula that I have had in my life. It was through Craig McCaw's 17.5 incher with a

nebulosity filter. He said it was old and he didn't know where it came from, but it made the background sky so dark that the veil stood

out like a scarf in the wind. It reminded me of Jack Marling's picture of the North American Nebula taken from Livermore through a

hydrogen alpha band pass filter. The lights of Livermore were gone. We saw many distant things from that mountain including Stephans Quintet

and the cluster of galaxies in Hercules, but that beautiful rainbow and that view of the Veil stand alone in my memory.

 

The Veil Nebula, like the Crab, is the debris of a giant star exploded away by the energy released by the gravitational collapse

of its degenerate iron core, and the energy exchange is very interesting. The energy of an atomic bomb is only a thirtieth of an ounce,

or one grain. The energy of the famous Saint Helens explosion was one pound, or half a kilogram. The 'energy of the volcanic eruptions that

left the caldera of Crater Lake was some 'forty or fifty pounds. But the energy which the Sun radiates away in one second is four and a

half million tons, and it's been doing it for five billion years and will continue for another five billion. But the energy which is releaeed

by the gravitational collapse of one of these iron core stars (and it collapses in three quarters of a second) is ten times as much

as the Sun will release in ten billion years. Our Earth is made largely of iron and rock, and those heavy elements were scattered

through the interstellar spaces, long ago, by these violent explosions.  When we look at the Veil or the Crab we see those elements before

they have a chance to recycle into new stars like our Sun and planets like our Earth, but if you give those clouds another ten billion years,

they'll go to school and chew gum.

 

We left home on the last day of June With 30 copies of AdVaita Vedanta and Modern Science by John Dobson, and returned on the 8th of

August with none. We lost half of them to the planetarium audience in Vancouver, several more after the talk on Cosmology at Mount Kobau,

and the last seven at the second talk in Ashland, on the way home. 

 

It has been reprinted and is again available for $3.50 from the

Vedanta Book Center

5423 S. Eyde Park Blvd.

Chicago, Ill, 60615

It is mostly about the consequences of relativity and quantum mechanics to our understanding of the first cause of our physics, and

it is recommended for outside reading in relativity by Paul Hewitt in his college text Conceptual Physics.