The Dark and Delightful Skies of Modoc and the Golden State Star Party
Photo © Jean Bilodeaux
Do you enjoy gazing at the stars? Do you often wonder...are we alone in the universe? Do you love meteor showers, dramatic lightning storms or magnificent sunrises and sunsets? Ever want to see the space station travel across the night sky? Count the satellites that crisscross the heavens doing whatever they are supposed to do? Maybe on a special night see other unexplained lights dance in the blackness, zigzagging, hovering and possibly even landing on a hillside? All of these things are possible and that’s what makes Modoc County skies so special!
Star gazing - Modoc County is located far away from any large or metropolitan city so we have little or no light pollution at all. Some of the darkest skies in northeastern California can be found in Modoc. The conditions here are perfect for stargazing. Because of our high elevation, we sit above most of the air.
Some of the best viewing areas in Modoc are in the higher elevations of the Warner Mountains, Adin, Surprise Valley and Devil's Garden.
Humans have been star gazing for thousands of years. Stars have a prominent place in old myths and stories, and have been pondered by many leading scientists and philosophers throughout time. Most children are taught about the constellations and the stories behind them. Star gazing is as much a part of modern culture as it was thousands of years ago.
There are 88 constellations that can be seen from almost anywhere in the United States, although not all at once. As the Earth moves in its orbit, the placement of the stars in the sky appears to move. The constellations visible in April, for example, may not be visible in September. The zodiac constellations circle through the night sky, one for each month of the year, although several zodiac constellations are able to be seen at any time of the year.
Every year, there are special events that make star gazing even more exciting. Meteor showers happen several times a year, and can be interesting to watch. Lunar eclipses, where the sun casts the Earth's shadow onto the moon, turning it red, happen a few times each year. There are also comets, and times of the year when other planets are highly visible, even without the use of a telescope. Star gazing, with the seasonal changes in constellations and the different events, can be a very exhilarating pastime.
The Golden State Star Party: 2012 dates are July 18 - July 22, 2012
The Golden State Star Party (GSSP) is a four night dark sky event held each summer at Frosty Acres Ranch in northeastern California, near Mount Lassen, alongside rural Adin, California. GSSP has dark skies from horizon to horizon, and room for 100s of astronomers. Contact the Frosty Acres Ranch for specific dates of this annual event.
If you've never been out to a sky beyond your backyard or local astronomy sites, you're in for an amazing treat. Do you need a telescope to attend? No! But if you have one, bring it (nothing is too small). If not, binoculars, or just your eyes will do. There will be plenty of telescopes to look through. Do you think you're too much of a beginner? Its a friendly and helpful group - you'll fit right in and make new friends under under an amazing sky. Whether you're an observer or imager, you'll have lots of company, get plenty of help, and see lots of new equipment and sights.
Directions to GSSP - 41.135135, -120.978509
From the San Francisco Bay Area, GSSP is a shorter drive than attending RTMC. From central Calfornia, drive up highway 5 to Redding. Turn east on highway 299 and drive approximately 100 miles. When you reach the town of Bieber, watch for the Red Barn (gas station and store) as you are leaving town, and turn right there onto the A2 (Susanville Road). Continue approximately 9 miles before turning left onto Bassett Road (road 424). GSSP will be on the left shortly. If you reach highway 139, you've driven too far and missed Bassett Road.
Early Adult Registration Fees (through March 30) - $60
After March 30 - $70
On Site Registration - $75
Adult guests at the same rates as above
Kids under 18 are free
For those who crave a less organized event, just drive to the top of the Warner Mountains, out on the Devil's Garden, or almost anywhere in Modoc County, park and enjoy the spectacular display that Mother Nature will provide.
The viewing is anywhere, just be careful not to leave trash, smoke, or indulge in any other illegitimate eco-friendly behavior.
Pets are not recommended for this event. If you do bring your pet, you must keep it under control at all times. Because of the prevalence of mountain lions, coyotes, and in places bubonic plague, it is best not to let your pet off its leash, especially at night.