Nightfall 2016 … Keep Lookin’ Up!


Post by Jim

Nightfall star party and imaging conference is held on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, typically around late October or early November. The Riverside Astronomical Society sponsors and hosts the event at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort in Borrego Springs, California. It’s a very informative and fun event.

This was our first time at Nightfall and we had a good time. We not only picked up some good astronomy tips, we also got to see fluorescent scorpions!

A side note: We generally aren’t RV Resort campers so we stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds, Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, just up the road. It’s managed by the State of California. We’ve blogged about it a few times so I won’t go into detail. We also went to see our favorite desert sculpture, the dragon, which has nothing to do with Nightfall. Here are a few pictures of our campground and the dragon:

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Now back to Nightfall. Here’s the flyer that listed scheduled events for this year:


We attended all of the “no charge” meetings and learned at lot!

One of sessions, presented by Alex McConahay, was about planning for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Alex gave great advice for trip planning that we had not thought of. We are going north next August to see the eclipse and really appreciated Mr. McConahay sharing his eclipse chaser experience. I believe he said he’s been to at least 15 eclipses around the world.

Other interesting free sessions we attended included: information about the newest astronomy equipment, which I can’t afford; simplified image processing; how refractor telescopes are made and tested; a review of nebula filters and how to use them. Good, good stuff if you are into astronomy.

Friday evening, we watched a demonstration about how to “star hop” using sky charts and a dobsonian telescope. Saturday evening we enjoyed a sky tour given by Dennis Mammana. This presentation was a great blend of humor and information.

There was a “premium” imaging workshop being offered for $60 that spanned 4 hours. I would have attended it except I knew I’d then have to spend thousands of dollars on astronomy imaging equipment and software because I would have gotten so excited about it.

A really fun Friday side event was a nighttime scorpion hunt with UV flashlights. These things don’t look real when you see them. They glow fluorescent green and look like plastic bugs out of a vending machine. However, when one runs at your feet you know it’s real. If you do this kind of thing, don’t wear sandals. We were out in open desert, in pitch black, and our guide gave us some comforting information that went something like this: rattle snakes are invisible in UV light so be sure to listen for a rattle. That’s the only way you’ll know a snake is there. Sure … I bet if you get bitten you know a snake is there too! Anyway, it was lot of fun! We found quite a few scorpions and zero snakes … that we know of anyway.

Our next stop will be the semi-annual star party at the Mojave National Preserve. I’ll be a participant in that one so I’ll need to wipe the dust off my telescope.

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