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The paddle beeps in Benet’s hand again, and the scope whirs to M42, the Orion Nebula. A quick glance through the scope at the hazy blotch in the sky, and he’s quickly on to the next object on the list.
Bobchin, like many of the astronomers who came out to Anza, gave up on the marathon when the clouds didn’t clear immediately after sunset. They’ve settled instead on idle gazing or astrophotography.
Bobchin looks through the eyepiece of Benet’s scope as it settles, momentarily, on a star cluster.
“It’s not centered!” Bobchin says, annoyed with Benet’s unrelenting push to see each object, rather than enjoy them in their splendor.
“I’m not going to center them all!” Benet shouts back, baffled at the mere suggestion, already punching more numbers into his paddle.
When Benet needs to take a nap or escape from the dropping desert temperatures, he slips into the back of his SUV, which he parked behind his scope. It’s lined with heated blankets, a small electric heater in the corner near his feet. And if he lies down with the window open, he can still see the stars.
This article appeared in print as "Star Lords: Thanks in part to the Orange County Astronomers and its desert clubhouse, Southern California is amateur-stargazer heaven."