One of the best places in Southern California for star gazing is in and around Joshua Tree. We have been out several times specifically to do this, but only recently learned about the Sky’s the Limit Observatory in 29 Palms. On our last visit to the northern part of Joshua Tree we noticed the observatory’s white building contrasting in the desert landscape, but didn’t really know if it was open to the public, so we didn’t stop. On my most recent trip however, I heard that they offer free weekly viewings, so I went to check it out.
Living so close to Griffith Park Observatory, I am no stranger to star parties, so it’s not always easy to impress me with telescopes. But I have to say that the Sky’s the Limit Observatory was fantastic in more ways than one.
Unfortunately we arrived after dark and were not able to get the full experience, but I was still super impressed with their Orrery. If you are like me, you have no idea what an Orrery is. Well, it is a model of sorts to demonstrate the scale of the solar system and the motion of the planets as they move around the sun. Traditional Orrery’s are typically smaller scaled, like what can be put on a desk. The Orrery at the Sky’s the Limit Observatory is dubbed a “human” Orrery, meaning that you can walk out the movements of the planets to see first hand how the solar system works. It was amazing and brilliant. Using a crazy ratio of 20 billion to 1, the Orrery at Sky’s the Limit Observatory allows visitors to use stepping stones (each stone signifying 4 days) to feel the orbit of planets around the sun. With several people present, walking the orbits, you can really get a sense of the speed of each planet’s orbit. Every detail has been taken into account for this model, including the slope of the orbit, the size of the planets comparably, etc.
Sky’s the Limit Observatory is located on Utah Trail Road, the same road you use to enter the Northern (Oasis of Mara) entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. Volunteers are only on hand on Saturday night viewings, however, the Orrery and nature trail are available for visitors throughout the day.
Want to make a full trip of your visit? Check out our post on where to stay and what else there is to do in 29 Palms.
Have you visited 29 Palms and the Sky’s the Limit Observatory? Share your tips or comments below!
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