The Morongo Basin’s dark night skies make it a stargazer’s paradise and a delight for amateur astronomers. As such, the Basin abounds with organizations dedicated to observing the heavens, protecting the night skies and educating the public about preserving the darkness.
The Andromeda Society does all this and more.
The society is closely aligned with the Southern California Desert Video Astronomers, which proudly proclaims it is one of the leading organizations in video astronomy. The heavens-looking organization is a major presence at Yucca Valley's annual Earth Day celebration and the Starry Nights Festival.
This summer's Venus transit was a major event for the society and a rare daytime phenomenon for the otherwise night-loving stargazers. About 100 people came to the Joshua Tree Community Center to get a glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime event through about a half dozen solar telescopes.
It's a good time to be an astronomer. This summer was the peak of an 11-year cycle for solar flares on the closest star to Earth.
“You don't need a telescope to pursue astronomy,” society president Dick Pantoya points out. “A pair of binoculars works great.”
No scope? No binos? No problem. The friendly stargazers are happy to show off the heavens to others using their equipment. The society sponsors field trips, for example, to Griffith and Palomar observatories in Los Angeles.
The idea to form the Andromeda Society goes back to the mid-1970s when charter member Mary Firth opined there ought to be a star club here because of the Basin's absence of air and light pollution. Monthly new moon star parties began and the club took shape.
Like an enthusiast in any hobby, stargazers get quite excited about their interest. It's been a good year; the Perseid meteor showers peaked in August, and there was a rare blue moon, two new moons within a month.
“It's a good month for planets, too,” Tom O'Key, a video astronomer, said. “Venus was in occultation in the eastern sky.”