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Gazin' With the Experts

The Solar System

One of the greatest thrills for a beginning backyard astronomer is to view the heavens through a telescope. Because there are a number of astronomy clubs and professional observatories in San Diego and Southern California, many opportunities exist for the public to explore the cosmos in this way.

San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA)

The SDAA is a non-profit educational organization established to further the education of its members and the general public about astronomy. Membership ranges across all walks of life and all levels of interest and knowledge.

The SDAA hosts a number of free public sky viewing events throughout the year, both in Balboa Park on the Prado and at their dark sky observatory complex in Tierra del Sol.

At dusk on the first Wednesday of each month, following the monthly "Sky Tonight" planetarium show in the Fleet Science Center’s Space Theater, members of the SDAA set up telescopes on the north side of the Fleet Center building, by the large fountain in Balboa Park, for free public sky viewing. Though the sky is not as dark and clear as one might hope, viewers can enjoy a variety of sights, from the moon and planets to the brighter stars.

In addition, the SDAA hosts public star parties at their dark observing site in Tierra del Sol, about 90 minutes east of San Diego. Here, visitors can view the sky through small and large telescopes - including the 0.6-meter (22-inch) diameter Lipp Telescope -- and get a glimpse of some remarkable "deep - sky objects" such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. Dates for these and other club events are listed on the SDAA Events Calendar.

Mt. Laguna Observatory Associates (MLOA)

MLOA is a non-profit ancillary organization of San Diego State University (SDSU), whose members support the research and educational programs of Mount Laguna Observatory Membership. Membership is open to the general public, provides complementary subscription to the MLOA Newsletter, an invitation to the annual John D.Schopp Lecture on the SDSU campus, an invitation to the Annual Summer Meeting and Picnic at the Observatory, an insider's tour of the Observatory, and special telescopic viewing sessions at the Observatory and on the SDSU campus.

Riverside Telescope Makers Conference (RTMC)

Each spring the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference is held at the YMCA Camp Oakes, 13 kilometers (8 miles) east of Big Bear City on Highway 38. Visitors have the unique opportunity to see and look through a large variety of telescopes (with relatively dark skies and high elevation), attend talks by professional and amateur astronomers, see some astronomical equipment and software in use, and buy astronomical equipment, software, T - shirts, etc.- often at reduced prices. Advance registration is required to (909) 948-2205, or send e-mail to Robert Stephens at registrar@rtmcastronomyexpo.org.

Society for Amateur Scientists (SAS)

SAS is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to helping everyday people find the limits of their own genius, by developing scientific skills and removing roadblocks that make it nearly impossible for those without advanced degrees to do research. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do science simply for the love of it.

Orange County Astronomers Starry Nights Festival (SNF)

Presented by the City of Yucca Valley and the Astronomical League Western Region (WRAL), the Starry Nights Festival takes place in October, with speakers, workshops, demonstration booths and evening observing sessions under the dark, pristine skies of Yucca Valley and the Joshua Tree National Monument. Advance registration is required. Bob Gent,  SNF Registrar,  325 Cloudes Mill Drive,  Alexandria, VA 22304-3080 or by e-mail:  BobGent@aol.com

The above listings are for information purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. For the latest information on programs, tours or organizations, please refer to their individual websites.