GMARS: Goat Mountain Astronomical Research Station
Your First Visit
34° 17' 26.33" N, 116° 23' 01.77" W | ELEVATION IS 2,937' | (760) 364-1952
(Phone is usually only answered on star party weekends.)
Google Map | Star Party Etiquette
If you've never been to GMARS you might be wondering how to get there, what to expect, and what to bring. Just about everything you need to know about visiting GMARS can be found in this section (see more links to the left), and you really don't need to bring much of anything. But here are some things to consider:
Except for during the height of summer, it can get quite chilly at night in the high desert (or even during the day in winter). Even when the daytime is bright and warm, temperatures can drop by 20-30°F shortly after sunset. Always check the weather reports and be prepared to dress in warm layers. Don't forget the long-johns, heavy socks, gloves, hat, warm shoes or boots, and a good jacket. In a pinch, you can find a loaner jacket in the clubhouse.
Don't get caught in the desert with just flip-flops or sandals, especially in the dark. There are bugs, scorpions, lizards and snakes in the desert. Really. I've seen each of them.
Part of every amateur astronomer's arsenal is a red, LED flashlight. If you only have a regular, white-light flashlight go ahead and bring it. We can cover it with red cellophane that we keep a supply of in the clubhouse. Small keychain red lights might be available as loaners. If you borrow one, please return it.
You actually don't need to bring any binoculars or telescopes if you're new to the hobby or don't want to lug anything out. The club has a 22" Dobsonian telescope that's usually set up during star party weekends. Of course, since Outreach is our middle name, you can also spend the evening looking through other people's telescopes.
But if you're a seasoned mobile astronomer, you probably have a routine down and a list of stuff to bring on your trips. If you're new to this, it's easy to forget things. Everyone's equipment is different so there's no way we can provide you with an exhaustive list, but we can offer this advice—before heading out, set up at home for an observing session as though you were heading to a remote location. Try to do that a couple times before your first actual trip. This will get you familiar with everything you need and the amount of time you'll need to set up and break down.
Astronomy "Related" Equipment
Don't forget the tools, power extension cord (AC power is available throughout the telescope field), and a table and chair. It's also a good idea to bring a remnant piece of outdoor carpet or a tarp in case you can't get a concrete pad and need to set up on the desert sand.
It's also important to bring a red screen filter or laptop tent. You will not be well-received if you're on the telescope field and you don't cover up your bright laptop screen.
Power & Amenities
As previously mentioned, the telescope field has AC power outlets located throughout. These outlets are for telescope-related equipment, phone/tablet charging and small electronics only! Electric space heaters, RVs, electric/hybrid vehicle charging, and other high-current uses are not permitted!
There are two houses at GMARS, each with running water and electricity. Feel free to use the restrooms and to use the kitchen appliances (refrigerator, microwave, stove, toaster, and coffee makers)—just be courteous and be sure to clean up any mess you make. There are basic supplies like utensils, paper plates, cups, napkins, and pots & pans. You'll also find drinking water, sodas, coffee, hot chocolate mix, and snacks. It's members and visitors like you who drop some cash in the donation jar at GMARS that allow us to make these amenities available.
Staying the Night?
Bring what you would need as though you were going on a camping trip: sleeping bag, toiletries, etc. There are beds available on a first-come, first-served basis. The beds are set up next to each other, dormroom or hostel style. If you're a sensitive sleeper you might want to bring earplugs and an eyemask... or seek alternative sleeping arrangements, such as in your vehicle, outside on a cot, or in a tent.
So, now you know the details and have no excuse for not making a trip to GMARS!