Spend the night on Mt. Wilson

Mt. Wilson at nightI had no idea you could do this. Author Aimee Bender reserved the Mount Wilson Observatory's historic 60-inch telescope for the evening and took along two dozen writer friends and one undercover physicist, the L.A. blogger Asymptotia, for a private session with an astronomy guide. The ringer in the group, USC professor Clifford V. Johnson, posts:

We’re all pretty spoiled these days with wonderful images from space on tv and the web, and that’s a great thing that I wouldn’t change (I’ve shown you several here on the blog). But the drawback is that people are a bit jaded by the real thing, and so there’s always the worry that people will not be as impressed with some telescope images as you might hope. It’s hard to try to explain how wonderful it is to see something with your “naked eye” - in the sense that the light you’re seeing actually came directly from the object you’re looking at. I find this latter a wonderful thing, and so staring through a telescope always gives me a tingle....

Any doubts (perhaps brought on by people’s reactions to an earnest but wobbly early appearance from Mars) about how the evening’s viewing would be taken were blown Mount Wilson 60 inch telescope looking at the moonaway by the first big marquee animal of the show: Saturn. Shelley did a clever thing by simply not telling us what was up next, and then as we lined up to have a look through the eyepiece, one by one people gasped upon looking, and then came down the ladder with a glow you could see in the half-light.

For those who can handle climbing some stairs at 5,700-foot elevation, it's $800 per group for a half-night or $1,500 for the dusk to dawn experience. Booking info.

Also from Prof. Johnson: An undersea mountain colonized by millions of starfish.

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