Saturday night, August 20, the16th year of summer star parties continues at Big Bend, in the Sierras. This is a series of free public star parties at the Loch Leven Trailhead, near the Big Bend Ranger Station, about 30 miles above Colfax, along Interstate 80. You can also meet local amateur astronomers such as Don Macholz who has discovered several comets from his location in Colfax. Macholz tells us what we can expect to see Saturday night.
“On Saturday we’ll be able to see Saturn. It’s getting rather low in the west. This is one of our last chances to see Saturn this year. We’ll be able to see the planet Neptune as it rises in the east. We’ll see some of the brighter stars and double stars. We’ll see star clusters and nebula and a few galaxies.”
The event will be held from 8:30 until 10:00 PM. These 90-minute sky tours take you through about 25 sky wonders using telescopes owned and operated by astronomers. Maacholz encourages visitors to bring plenty of warm clothes; even in the summer it gets cold at 5800 feet elevation. This is a family friendly event. Restrooms are nearby. The stargazing is free.
To get there take Interstate 80 towards Reno and go beyond Colfax, Blue Canyon and Emigrant Gap. The Big Bend exit is the first one past Cisco Grove. At the bottom of the off-ramp turn left, travel one-half mile and continue past the USFS Visitor Center. Look for the Loch Leven trailhead parking lot on the left. We set up in that parking lot. Residents in the Grass Valley area can take Highway 20 to Interstate 80 eastbound, and then exit at Big Bend.