Star Watch on Mount Pinos


Star watch on Mount Pinos

08.9.12

From the issue Pining for Pinos

Multimeteor Show

Where's the best place to check out meteor showers? Claim your seat near the top of Pinos, where cloudless skies, low light pollution, and an easy-to-reach location at 8,300 feet make the parking lot at the end of Mount Pinos Road one of Southern California’s top astronomy hotspots. Expect this place to draw a lively crowd on the nights of August 11 through 12 (and into the early morning of August 13), as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak in the late night and pre-dawn hours. Several first-come, first-serve campgrounds are within a few miles of the parking area, but even if you don’t snag one, you can still catch the show! It's for both the merely curious and the star-junkies alike. Bring a chair, warm layers, and—for a true Galileo geek-out—a red flashlight to keep your eyes adjusted to the darkness. At peak times, you might see as many as 40 meteors per hour. Good company and perhaps a thermos of your favorite mountain-air beverage are helpful ways to wait out the lulls between meteors. Astronomers on the scene might even let you peer through their powerful telescopes for a closer look at the heavens, but even a pair of binoculars will take you deeper into space. Oh, you lucky star.

TIP: The best time to visit Mount Pinos for stargazing is on Saturday nights closest to the new moon during warm weather months. The parking lot fills with astronomers and organizations like the Ventura County Astronomical Society. Many of the regulars will let you take a peek through their serious gear—everything from Dobsonian to apochromatic telescopes.

Mount Pinos is about 22 miles northwest of the Frazier Park exit from Interstate 5. Follow Frazier Mountain Park Rd west for about 7.2 miles, and at the intersection with Lockwood Valley Rd, stay right onto Cuddy Valley Rd. In another 5 miles, you’ll reach a junction with Mil Potrero Rd, where you’ll follow signs for Mount Pinos as you stay straight for Mount Pinos Rd. Continue about 10 miles to the end of the road and park at the Nordic Center. Arrive well before dark in order to get a parking spot and to avoid using headlights, which disrupts the astronomers. Adventure Passes ($5) are required on Mount Pinos (though there are a couple of campgrounds where they're not), and can be purchased Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Mount Pinos Ranger District Office (34580 Lockwood Valley Rd; 661-245-3731). Passes are also available at several businesses in Frazier Park; a list of the locations is available at the Forest Service website. Dog-friendly, but not ideal around all the fragile telescopes.

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