Thunderstorms expected on Julian Starfest Opening Day

With the gates opening at Julian Starfest this afternoon, it appears that Mother Nature doesn’t want people stargazing this weekend. For those not in the know, Julian Starfest is a San Diego Astronomy event held at Menghini Winery in the local mountains.

Here is the latest Accuweather Astronomy Forecast for Julian, CA: Julian Starfest Astronomy Weather Forecast

While it states, “Very Good for Stargazing,” the fine print shows a 60% chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like sloshing around in the mud and rain while trying to set up a campsite. My boyfriend lives further east into San Diego County, and reports just an hour ago that big storm clouds were gathering over the Julian and Mt. Laguna areas. Aside from setting up a campsite in the rain, I am not fond of the prospect of the mirror on my telescope getting wet or, potentially, damaged by hail. Although I have a lid for the mirror, it isn’t waterproof. Even ignoring all that, the muddy grounds will make setting gear up difficult, if not impossible, with swampy conditions expected through the weekend.

Saturday’s forecast calls for rain Saturday night, the night of the Julian Starfest Free Public Star Party. Enduring an hour or more drive to not be able to see anything doesn’t sound like fun to me. Even with perfect skies, the JSF Free Public Star Party often disappoints. With long lines, and seeing the same objects year after year, usually only looking like pin pricks in the telescope eyepiece, I am unimpressed with the event.

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Larger Telescopes Needed

Many years ago, I had the very great pleasure of looking through The Yard Scope. It is a 36″ diameter telescope owned by Astronomy To Go of Virginia. Bob, the owner, proudly towed the Big Dobsonian out from Virginia every year, and set up the 15 foot ladder that was required to observe through it. That big dobsonian, The Yard Scope, induced in me a very bad case of aperture fever, from which I have never recovered.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I ended up buying my own Big Dobsonian. No, it isn’t quite the aperture of The Yard Scope, but its close. At 28″ in diameter, it can view objects 1/27 the age of the universe away, or around 500 million light years. This enables viewing down to around 18th magnitude, making very faint, deep sky objects accessible to the average person. A star party or, more appropriately, night sky tour or Astro Tourism event conducted with a large telescope will do far more to ignite the public interest in astronomy than seeing a pin prick of light through an eyepiece for the hundredth time.

Public believes Hubble quality views available from home

A colleague of mine said it best very recently. “The general public believes that you can get views like that seen by the Hubble Space Telescope from an amateur telescope,” he stated. While that is not possible, certainly viewing through a 28″, or 36″ telescope, gets you a lot closer to that objective than the 6″ or 8″ telescopes offered at the Julian Starfest Free Public Star Party.

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