The Lunar eclipse of 2014 on April 14/15th Started a minutes earlier than 11 pm at the local observing site, and ended around 3 am after midnight.
The view was beautiful where the moon started to shine less near the oragness of the planet Mars and close the relatively bright bluish star Spica.
There were clouds passing by, but not thick enough to cover the view, just enough to smear its crisp sharpness to the eye and the photographs. The clouds were most present at the peak of the lunar eclipse and nearly all went away after 3 am.
The red planet is coming close to reach its periodic orbital alignment where from earth’s night sky perspective will be in its brightness for this year tonight on April the 8th. The Sun will be in one direction in the sky, and Mars will be on the opposite side. This alignment is happening due to Earth’s position in the solar system with respect to the Sun and Mars. The red planet and will be above horizon most of the night time.
The image was taken from Santa Susana pass of Mars rising above the San Fernando Valley on April-7-2014.
The weather was warm and winds changed and stop blowing from South west and start coming from the North east after sunset.
Ten days ago, it was Friday, I submitted the last papers that were needed to complete my primary objective of my journey to California. I have finished all the work that is needed to inquiry a bachelor degree in Engineering by the educational system. It was December 2011-26th, mixed with Christmas memories of the last couple of days, spend with close college friends family, I was in a state of mind where I felt like I had no obligations, and finally, I can rest and close my eyes, and enjoy the holidays, even if it was for a short while.
Driving, I was roughly a hundred miles (160 Kilometer) north of down town Los Angeles. In Mountain Pinos, near a town called Frazer Park, the snow was in good amount, and it was still occasionally falling. I saw the snow covering some of the houses seasonal decorations and roof tops as I was passing by across the town, heading for the peak’s parking lot. The temperature was low as one might expect at this time of the year. The road to the main site I was heading for was blocked due to snow. The road called Cuddy Valley Rd. and it is famous between astronomers who live nearby. So I parked on the side of the road in one of the turn outs that have relatively a good western view, to see the last moments of the Moon and Venus setting on the horizon. Around 8240 feet elevation (~2500 meter above sea level,) the stars start to show up clear and crisp.
The colors of the sky were of blue and orange stripes, the view always reminded of Sci-Fi themed Hollywood’s movies of the 1980s and 70s.
The view of the planet Venus near the moon is a beautiful sight that kept amazing my, and many other eyes and minds throughout our collective history and culture. Now that I’ve enjoyed the view, I start to check the location I am in and the state of the car.
The Pleiades were up in the sky, chased right after by an orange reddish colored star Aldebaran. Those stars and constellations were the same where ever I travel. They might shift their position in the sky, but they keep their shape nearly all the time. The stars fixed position give comfort to the observer. I remember when my brother Jassem and I start to recognize those stars and constellations well, from the roof tops of our temporary home back in early winter 2004, and he was saying something along the lines of how knowing their names and seeing them in after few consecutive nights made him feel like the night sky is welcoming and that those points of light became friends.
Back in early 2000s, my passion for Astronomy took a new turn. It wasn’t just stargazing with an unaided eye anymore, and more time had been spend on the practical side, the theory part and reading about it also increased. I didn’t know that it will take me to California, be scholar and study engineering. Along the way, I met so many interesting people and all sort of characters, and boost my passion to the night sky even further.
The thoughts and memories of Stargazing were getting together in my head the entire holidays season time. I was done with college and possibly spending last couple of months in California enjoying the landscape at day and the night sky, before I go back to two job offers in Middle East.
As I was thinking of what will happen in the near future, I set up my camera to capture the night sky and leave it work autonomously under live supervision. I took the binocular out from the trunk of the car and start mounting and pointing it to the Andromeda galaxy, Orion’s sword, and few star clusters among other objects. There was a slight light pollution in one single direction from a nearby town that usually at the top Mt Pinos won’t be obviousness at all, because it will be covered by the side of the mountain and the remain covered by the side trees, that wasn’t the case in my location. It wasn’t bad, I didn’t notice it really, and it added nice ambient background light to the pictures captured that night.
The temperature was really low, and it felt really cold. After all, the snow was on each side of the road, and around me. So I had to go inside the car to cover up and warm up every now and then, without turning the engine on. I can look through the window to see the stars, but it feels a little beside the point, when a good amount of driving time was spent to reach the location, even if the idea sounds convenient to just sit.
Three hours spend in stargazing and capturing the night sky on the side of a mountain road in somehow a wild natural place. It was a quiet place, with passes of few cars and airplanes. There was also many wild life sounds and braking tweaks sounds either by animals or snow fall, or my imagination. Speaking of imaginations, I spend about ten minutes checking pair of eyes seeing me back in the middle of the woods. It was the other road cat’s eye road signal. I checked.
I thought that this was the last time I am going to stargaze in this mountain for a long time. So the trip was my way to say goodbye to Mt. Pinos in a sense. I was wrong. As I was driving down, I stopped by the local Denny’s restaurant before I hit the I-5 highway. I got a meal and hot coco, and review the pictures on my camera, and reached to the conclusion of what to do in the next two years. I have an opportunity to continue using my scholarship to get a master degree. I thought, if I use it, then I can spend more time walking the landscape and the mountains around me, and Stargaze more.
A very cheerful young “nerd” tall blonde waitress brought the check for me and told me randomly that she likes my smile and how cheerful I am, and I should stay here and not go. She was being nice and showing gust hospitality. As if it was a sign, I thought everything is welcoming. I should stay the next two years post graduation time in California.
Another reason that encouraged me to choose to stay longer in the state is to finish a new sky related activity course program that involved jumping from flying vehicles and land softly and safely twenty five times. I only did it twice as I was reaching my final conclusion to stay in this stargazing trip. Little did I knew, that it will have a great impact on my sky obsession.