This is my report on the SJAA’s first official new moon viewing/imaging night at Mendoza Ranch. Mendoza Ranch is a new location that the SJAA has been granted access by the Santa Clara County Parks to use on the new moon Saturday night. Access to the ranch requires one of the permit holders to be present, currently Ed Wong or Dave Ittner. The nights it will be opened are the new moon nights on the SJAA calendar which coincide the Henry Coe nights which will give people an option on different darker sites they can go to view or image at.
The event was held on Saturday, November 30th. We had a pretty good turn out, ten people total. For eight of those, it was their first time at Mendoza Ranch. We started at 6pm, there was about an equal mix of people viewing and imaging, five and five. As the sun was setting, I was able to get my mount aligned to do some imaging. I noticed that I was able to see the handle of the Big Dipper in the north. Mendoza Ranch has pretty low horizons. About 10 degrees in the north and the east, approx 12 degrees in the south and west. Overall the total visibility of the entire night sky is the best of all the places I have been able to view from so far.
As it got dark, the north, east and south views were pretty dark. The west had some glow from Gilroy and Morgan Hill but, Mendoza Ranch has some hills on the west blocking some of it, so it’s not that bad as some other sites I’ve been too. By 8pm the sky seemed pretty dark so I took a SQM meter reading using my app on my phone. It read 21.2 for comparison to other sites SJAA uses around the Bay Area, RCDO is 20.5. Pinnacles is 21.7.
Overall, it was a pretty good night, people seemed happy to be able to get out to view and image. I heard people say they like the site and were planning to come back. I think it was a successful first night. The next planned opening of Mendoza Ranch will be Saturday, January 4th, 2014. Come out and join us!