At the suggestion of an online friend Saturday Night I went out to Upper Bidwell park to visit the Chico Community Observatory. The first really amazing thing to me was how dark it got entering Bidwell Park, when I say dark I mean pitch black. There seems to be absolutely no "light pollution" from Chico flooding into the area of the Observatory. The observatory was marked by two Red Lights at the front door, against a pitch black scenery. My headlights did little to pierce the darkness. Signs warned not to use high beams, so I crept into the parking lot and found a parking space. I was the only person there.
The doors to the Observatory stood open. It was a chilly night to be generous, and the red lit hallow of the Observatory looked COLD. I got out of my arm car, put on extra layers and went in. I was greeted by a friendly man bundled up like an artic explorer. He told me that the Chico Observatory house two 14-inch telescopes, pretty unique, he said for a community observatory. Tonight one, with a video display was pointed at the crab nebula. He explained the Crab Nebula was the remains of a super Nova that exploded in the year 1055 and was recorded by Arabic, Indian and Chinese Astronomers . he told me that the Super Nova was visible in DAY LIGHT for a couple of weeks, and then was visible for quite a while in the night sky. (The detail was FANTASTIC, and my camera just wasn't able to capture it. To see the detail one can see with a 14-inch telescope CLICK HERE --->http://lmgtfy.com/...
the other, with just an eye piece was point at Saturn, and not only could one see the swelling purple pink surface of the planet, one could also see 4 of its moons! The detail was amazing! Again my camera just couldn't capture it, so I lifted this 14-inch photo from the web, other than the fact I could also see four of the moons in the view finder of the Chico Telescope. Yes you did have to move your eye around, but it was cool! The Pink and the purples swirling on the surface of the Planet were plainly visible. The proctore told me that Jupiter < http://en.wikipedia.org/... > was nearing its closest pass to Earth and Right now was sitting in Taurus < http://en.wikipedia.org/..._(constellation) > and proceeded to use a laser light to point out the stars of Taurus. It was amazing. He spent another hour or so pointing out interesting things that we could see in the Chico sky, till the cold was getting to me and I had to go. I could have spent the entire night there, having him tell me about the constellations and their myths.
The first thing I noticed about the Observatory was that it was just a big square room with a retracting roof, a triangle shaped roof, it looked like some sort of a barn building not like any observatory I had ever seen.
Once the Roof was retracted, and the front doors, one entered into a Visitor center, and with a few more steps into the telescope room, where the two 14-inch telescopes are mounted on a steel structure. Around the base board of the room was red lighting, and the walls were painted black. Then I looked up, and was absolutely amazed by how many stars were visible. We were not 5 minutes out side of Chico, and yet the sky was ablazed with stars. The volunteer noticed my gaping mouth and commented that there is very little light pollution here, and it was a very clear night, I was extremely fortunate.
I will be going back on Thursday when it is open again, dressed a LOT warmer, and plan on learning so much more!
The Chico Observatory is a non-profit I learned and staffed by volunteers!
The Bidwell Park Chico Community Observatory has a cool feature, an outdoor planetarium. This lowered seating pit is near the south side of the observatory. The planetarium seats over 40 visitors comfortably with seating for disabled persons as well. Observatory staff give tours of the constellations including associated mythology, general science, and astronomical history.
The planetarium also includes a handheld multimedia presentation using state-of-the-art wireless technology. These mini TVs have live feed from the telescopes incorporated with a slide show feature, similar to the welcome screen in the lobby of the observatory.