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Joshua Tree National Park Astronomy


We spent last night out in Joshua Tree National Park with our telescope out under the stars.  We stayed in Cottonwood Springs campground where every campsite was taken by dark.  Even though it was full, the people camping there were generally quite and their fires weren’t too big.  The night was warm (55F), zero breeze, and one of the clearest skies we have had out there ever - the sky was very still, no twinkling stars.  We spent some time looking at Saturn, M13 Hercules Cluster, Veil Nebula, Sombrero Galaxy, cruising through various galaxies in Virgo, and a number of other Messier globular clusters.  Along with these, M51 the Whirlpool Galaxy, was the best we’ve ever seen it.  It was clearly visible even without averted vision and showed a lot of detail.   We also looked at M16 the Eagle Nebula - on several previous occasions, I’ve tried to see the Pillars of Creation region of the Eagle Nebula but had never been able to make them out before.  The Pillars are one of the early Hubble Space Telescope pictures that were publicly popular.  With a little searching, both Anne and I were able to see them which was really exciting!  Amazingly, the Pillars were actually destroyed around 6,000 years ago by a supernova, and we won’t see them destroyed for another 1,000 years or so, because M16 is 7,000 light years away.
Milky Way picture - 30 second exposure looking southeast toward Sagittarius (you can see it if you look closely).


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Reader Comments (1)

A rich cultural history and the surreal geologic features add to the attraction of Joshua Tree National Park for day hikers or campers. The Joshua Tree National Park offers visitors endless opportunities for exploration and discovery, providing wonderful hikes, rock climbs, views of rock formations and spectacular desert plants like joshua trees, cholla cactus and barrel cactus, and old mining sites, as well as vistas of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Depending on the number of hours you have to spend, your interests and your energy, here are some ideas to consider.

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