On October 14, 1995, Peter Lord and I (Morris Jones) took the motorcycle up to Fremont Peak State Park to conduct a public observing session and astronomy program at the Fremont Peak Observatory. Fremont Peak State Park is about 50 miles south of San Jose, California, near the town of San Juan Bautista.
It was a third quarter moon, possibly one of the last warm weekends
of the fall. One intrepid observer (Jack Zeiders) was there
reading a copy of Robert A. Garfinkle's Star Hopping: Your Visa to
Viewing the Universe while waiting for dark.
These were some of the twilight views from the peak, looking north toward Hollister, looking east up at the observatory, looking west toward Monterey, where the marine layer is rolling in, and a beautiful view to the south, with the valley ground fog creeping in.
The marine layer is what gives Fremont Peak its magical quality for astronomy. On summer evenings when the conditions are right (as they were this evening), the peak sticks above the blanket of fog at 3,718 feet. With less interference from the city lights below, the sky darkens and the milky way springs to life.
Walking up the hill to the observatory, you're greeted by a sundial on the outside, and a beautiful exterior building design donated for the observatory. The building and telescope were built by volunteer amateur astronomers, using seed money of $25,000 raised by selling donated equipment from the Celestron Corporation.
Here are two views of the 30" Newtonian telescope, constructed and loaned to the observatory by Kevin Medlock. The northern half of the building holds AV equipment for conducting public slide presentations. In the small facility on a busy Saturday night, we'll frequently give two or three slide presentations, and have as many as a hundred visitors come to the observatory.
Here Peter releases one of the four turnbuckles
that lock the roof in place when the telescope is not in use.
Peter and I opened the shutters that reveal a stunning southern sky to the observatory, then Peter operated the hand winch that rolls back the roof. I took this series of photos as he cranked on the winch -- then this one last photo with the big 30" Newtonian tilted toward the sky, and the observatory ready to receive visitors.
It was a slow night, only about 15 visitors to the telescope that night, but the sky didn't disappoint. We had beautiful views of a setting Jupiter, edge-on rings of Saturn, M13 the Hercules Cluster, M57 the Ring Nebula, M31 the Andromeda galaxy, M33 in Triangulum, the Veil nebula, and the Double Cluster.
Fremont Peak Observatory can be schedule for group visits, and public showings are most Saturdays excluding full moon weekends.