Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perseid Meteor shower with friends - 2013

The Perseid meteor shower was being billed as the best meteors of the year and Theresa and I had been looking forward to it since last year! Our last meteor experience was in the middle of December and while it was really cool, we were freezing!
Theresa sent out an invitation to all our friends letting them know about the meteor shower and 7 people answered the call! Cody, Jacob, myself, Theresa, Chris, Eliza, Jackson (not pictured), Steph and Farman.

This year, the moon set at 11pm so the only on light we had to contend with was the city lights. Check out this light map of the Los Angeles area. We're down in Redondo Beach where it's white, meaning the sky is constantly gray. Now look at the area near Twentynine Palms. It's on the opposite end of the scale and about the darkest skies we get anywhere close by. You can try to find light pollution maps in your area at

Everyone else arrived at the hotel earlier in the day, but Theresa and I were coming from Anaheim having just heard an amazing concert by Richard Sherman and Alan Menken. We left Anaheim at 10:15pm and a short 2 hour drive later, arrived at the Fairfield Inn in Twentynine Palms. The night manager Tom told us we were the last people to arrive that night and after we got our room, the hotel was completely sold out. He gave us a map and suggested a couple places to go watch the meteors inside Joshua Tree and away from the city lights.
It's going to be a really short night. We were in our room by 12:30am and were meeting everyone else in the lobby at 2:30am. Better sleep fast!

At 2:30am, everyone showed up in the lobby and we looked over the map together to figure out exactly where we were heading. The night manager asked us what time we'd be back and after hearing it was 5am, promised he would have the breakfast bar set up for us even though normally breakfast doesn't start until 7am. Great service here!

It's still dark outside... What are we doing up?

We drove 15 minutes outside the city into Joshua Tree National Park and found a dirt road heading off to the middle of a field. There Jacob, Cody, Theresa and I laid down on a blanket, while everyone else brought low chairs. It's impossible to see the milky way back home. It's amazing how many stars are visible when you get away from the city. Looking back towards Twentynine Palms, you can see the glow of the city.

I set up my camera on a tripod, used my fish-eye lens to capture as much as the sky as possible, and used an intervalometer to take a new photo every thirty seconds. Forty five minutes later, I had 90 photos of the same section of sky. Having that many photos let me do all sort of fun things with them.

In this one I found each photo with a meteor streaking across the sky and made a composite image.

And I also made a fun animated gif showing the movement of the stars in the sky, and you can just catch some of the meteors streaking through some of the frames.

And if you happen to be pointing at the North Star, you can stack all the photos on top of each other and make some cool star trails.

Another really cool thing you never hear in the city, coyotes! Who knows how close they were, but as we were laying out in the middle of this field, we heard a coyote howling in the distance, and then other coyotes answering!

We spent a solid two hours beneath the stars chatting and enjoying each other's company. We saw quite a few meteors too. In the time we were there, we counted 133 different meteors that were seen by at least 2 people. Meteor 127 (by our count) was particularly spectacular, leaving a streak across the sky that was glowing for 15 seconds after the meteor had passed. 

 By 5am, the sun was just below the horizon and starting to brighten the sky. Time to head back to the hotel.

It was fun getting a group picture. Everyone's eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so the flash was especially bright when it went off. 

Everyone loaded back into their car and drove back to the hotel. True to his word, Tom had breakfast set out for us. We had a quick bite and went back to the hotel room to crash. Theresa and I were planning on heading to a BBQ place in Pioneertown and invited anyone else who was around at noon checkout to join us.

Theresa and I crashed and didn't wake up until a few minutes before it was time to checkout. By that time, everyone else had already hit the road. Guess it's just me and T for BBQ. Located 4 miles off the main highway on a windy road through the hills is Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, a hipster honky tonk BBQ restaurant and music venue.

The entrance to Pappy and Harriet's. 

The atmosphere around here is great. It would have been really cool to be around for some music, but I guess no one is playing at noon on Sunday.

After reading the outstanding reviews on Yelp, 4.5 stars with 250 reviews, we were really looking forward to a great meal. The ribs were really well reviewed so we ordered a full rack, but we found them to be a little tough and not really fall-off-the-bone tender as many people described. The cheese fries that came with it though were fantastic with cheese, bacon and a little bit of ranch.

We split the ribs between us and also ordered the Tri-tip quesadilla. The quesadilla was a happy surprise, containing huge chunks of tender tri-tip, plenty of cheese and a great flavor. I would have no problem ordering this one again!

The aftermath...

After a filling lunch, we wandered through Pioneertown, an old Wild West set built in the 1940s used in more than 50 movies and tv shows. After 15 minutes of strolling, we hopped in the car and headed back home.

It's been a busy weekend, but it was amazing!

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