Monday, April 04, 2016

Another Arizona Trip

My father came to visit in March from Australia, and I had the opportunity to take him to Arizona for a one-week tour. We explored the Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Sedona, old Route 66 and various points in between. A highlight was spending an evening at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. We took in several lectures which were very interesting. Some were entry-level astronomy "sky at night" fare, but others were more focused on the evolving discoveries connected with Pluto - from it's initial discovery to the recently acquired images and knowledge provided by the New Horizons spacecraft and its team of scientists. Not still a planet??? C'mon now - let it back into the club. It behaves just like one, from a tectonic perspective alone!

We managed to get a view through the 24" Clark Refractor (pictured below) of Jupiter, after lining up for about an hour in the cold. It was simply stunning! The seeing was very good that night, and we could see a clear image of the Great Red Spot, the planet's wispy cloud bands with intricate detail and the four Galilean moons. I could even see detail within the GRS itself, different shades of red. It's the best view of Jupiter I have ever seen, and dad was pretty much blown away by it as well. I'll drag my 12" Lightbridge to check out Jupiter again soon, but I know it won't be the same!

We also had the chance to visit the impact crater near Winslow. The views of the crater from the observation decks were terrific, and they have a splinter chunk of the asteroid/meteor that caused the impact on display to touch and examine more closely. It felt like pure iron or metal, and gave you an eerie sense of the damage a really large asteroid of this nature could cause if it impacted our planet. Well worth a visit if you're up that way!

Hopefully I'll have some more astro-images to share soon as the warm, spring nights take hold here in Texas.

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