Night on the Mountain

highway lights

Highway 24 and 680 Interchange in Walnut Creek from Mt. Diablo (and Mt. Tam in the background)

Back on May 15 I had the chance to spend an evening on Mt. Diablo with the San Jose Night Photography Meetup Group and the Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society. Besides just being on the mountain there were a few things that made it a special night.

Venus and the moon were both out and gorgeous.

Pleasant Hill

Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill with the moon and Venus

We saw the International Space Station flyover. I’ve seen satellites in the past, but this one is special. It came from the west and travelled quickly through the sky, then blinked out as it entered the earth’s shadow. It’s very cool to see it, especially when you know what you’re looking at!

ISS Flyover

ISS flyover with the moon and Venus

To show the trail of the ISS, I used a 30-second exposure. That’s why the moon and Venus look smeared and there are very short star trails, which may be hard to see in this size. The ISS travelled from the west to east, or up in this photo. A few minutes later we also watched the Space Shuttle Atlantis flyover. It blinked out, then on, then out again. The momentary return was probably due to clouds on the horizon.

Here’s one more shot from the evening. There’s a lot of light pollution in the Bay Area and it made for some interesting sky colors.

colorful sky

Colorful sky

It was also a treat to be able to look through some really nice telescopes that evening. I saw Saturn’s rings edge on. When it was late enough, the society led cars down the mountain and out the gate so we didn’t have to spend the night there. Spending the night on Mt. Diablo can be a good thing as long as you’re prepared, and I wasn’t.

Thanks to Steven and Bradley of the Night Photography Group and to the Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society for the opportunity and a great evening.

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