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January 30, 2019

Hot Stars and Heavenly Bodies

Our (my) reason for our quick Borrego Springs trip was not the flowers of Arroyo Saldado it was for the Ocotillo Wells Hot Stars and Heavenly Bodies.  Their biggest Star Party of the year. 

For sure Ocotillo Wells is an off-road park.  Some folks spend many thousands of dollars on their sand rails, ATVs, UTVs, side-by-sides, motorcycles, etc.  We settled into a quiet empty spot below Blow Sand Hill.  Our son rolled down this hill with the 3-wheeler some years ago. I thought he was hurt – nope just laughing too hard to get up!

This is the same site we had that trip.  Nobody in sight on Quarry Road, it’ll pick up later on Friday.

And boy did it pickup, at least next door!  About midnight these 6 rigs rolled in, fired up the generator, set up lights and started setting up to loud CW music.  About 2AM they settled down, but left the generator running.

So this was the scene at 7AM right in front of our RV, surprised to see any of them already up!  In all I counted 12 kids, 14 adults, 6 trucks, 1 RV, 1 5th-wheel, 1 pop-up and 4 tents!  WOW!  Biggest group I’ve ever seen here, by far!

They got their wish, we moved to another site again no neighbors at 11 AM on Saturday.  Once we were settled we walked over to the Discovery Center, where Fran found a comfy horned lizard bench.   There are several of these along the paved Natural Trail.

After lunch we took the Jeep for a run along the Fish Creek Geology Trail.

A nice fault line

With an aster clinging to the side.  This aster has been greeting visitors for over a decade!

The Fish Creek Wash follows along the base of a fault, with walls over 100 feet

We came here for the sole purpose of checking out the Fish Creek Anticline.  Also known as a Drag Fold, it looks as if the rock wall folded back on itself.  So what’s the difference?  An anticline is formed slowly by geological processes.  A drag fold is formed by a fast moving landslide.

And to think all these layers were laid down horizontal until geologic processes, or a landslide created some really fun patterns

As I earlier mentioned, Ocotillo Wells is the premier off-road park, heck Fran and I ride here too.  And it's also my go-to spot to view the night sky.  Midweek we’re sometimes the only ones here and I can set up my little 4” Celestron and get the most out of it.

There were several speakers at the Discovery Center during the day.  I attended the intro to astrophotography.  What it boiled down to is Manual Setting, Lowest F-spot (nothing higher than 2.8), mid-range ISO of no more than 400, 20 second manual exposure. And PRACTICE!, nothing magic learned.

This weekend Woody is here with his ‘Sky Trek’ mobile observatory.  Take a peek inside- there’s no eyepiece on his 11” Celestron.

It’s totally self contained, the rear door flips up to gain access to the equipment, expose the control station and display screen.  With the roof slid back it’s ready to go.  About 10 minutes to set up and it self aligns too!

Here’s a few pictures taken with my ancient Canon G16 from Woody’s outdoor TV display.  The Orion Nebula is always fun even in binoculars.  But spectacular from an 11” Celestron!

Our neighboring spiral galaxy Andromeda

A Beetlejuice a red giant (I think- that’s what’s in my notes …)

The Horsehead Nebula a dark nebula (I had to edit this one, but you get the idea)

Woody sat here in the outdoor control room until 10 PM running everything using a Blue Tooth connection.  Pretty impressive!

Woody is the mobile face of the San Diego Astronomy Association, the only thing that could really have helped is if the SDAA had provided a ‘Spokesperson’.  Someone to handle the questions from the participants and chat a bit about what Woody had on the screen.

We headed home Sunday morning using S2 to avoid Banner Grade, it adds about 10 miles, but it’s lots easier to drive and the RV is a lot happier too!

We again take a break in the big lot behind Dudley's, this time for dessert.  My favorite an Apple Mountain Berry from the Julian Pie Company - still warm from the oven!

For sure No Bad Days on this trip!


  1. Replies
    1. Yes Jeff the Star Party was indeed AWESOME! This is their biggest Star Party of the year. On Saturdays OW may set up their own 11" Celestron and show off the night sky.

  2. That's a good looking pie and star party.

    1. In that order? :) It's not only the best Star Party it is indeed the best pie!

  3. Be sure to check on line for Bandons sand art. It isn't every Sunday.

    1. Thanks for the tip, we'll only be there the one day ... fingers crossed it's the right day!


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