Pacheco SP

1997 Oct 4

Saturday night at Pacheco SP was, IMO, one of the better nights so far this year. It was a beautiful warm day with not quite enough breeze to provide relief in the afternoon sun; then little or no breeze after darkness fell (in sharp contrast to our previous viewing session there).

Excellent horizons were had in all directions with just a couple of minor light domes in the east and a moderate dome rising in the northwest from the Silicon Valley / South County sprawl; the southern horizon was quite dark (at least compared to what we've been experiencing at FPeak in recent months); and along the relatively dark, low northern horizon, Ursa Major never completely left our sight even during its nadir swing.

One of the best features at Pacheco is the total absence of any headlights in our eyes; any/all traffic in the area, both on Hwy 152 and on Dinosaur Point Road, runs lateral to our position -- the most we see are the side-mounted running lights on the 18-wheelers passing by on Hwy 152 about a half mile away; and traffic on Dinosaur Point Road is virtually non-existent. After a very short time I even became oblivious to the highway noise; it was almost like a soft, muted purr, punctuated only by the occasional howling of coyotes from what seemed like a location only a couple of hundred yards distant..............

I had really been itching for the opportunity to spend some time working the southern skies, so I was quite happy to be able to find quite a few objects in such constellations as Fornax, Pisces Austrinus and Sculptor. I was even able to pick up a couple of very nice spiral galaxies in/around the central portion of Grus -- with (horizon) room to spare!!! At one point during the evening, I found myself "knocking off" DSOs in the 13-14 magnitude range within a few seconds of moving the scope to the target areas, whereas at the Peak I would repeatedly search those same target areas for minutes on end without success (in this case I'm referring to the more conveniently positioned constellations such as Pisces, Andromeda, Orion, Perseus, et al).

Sometime after midnight (I don't recall exactly -- I'm not quite the clockwatcher I used to be) I/we started dewing up rather substantially, which ultimately caused me to pack up a good hour earlier than expected (I rolled out through the entrance gate at 3:00am). Even so, it had been a very good night for me -- Sunday morning's tally revealed 27 "newly found" objects to add to my list (which really surprised me; I didn't think I had checked off more than 17 or 18).

IMHO, we all had a pretty good night. I'm definitely looking forward to more sessions at Pacheco.

BTW, I finally stumbled upon the answer to that age-old question:
    Q: Where to flies go at night?
    A: They set up dormitories around the darkened dome lights in my van! :-((

The good news is: there are no more flies at Pacheco State Park; they've all moved to Monterey. The bad news is: I'm going to have to find homes for ALL of them............ ;-)

Jim Bartolini; last updated: 1997 Oct 7