Lightning in a Bottle is an Electronic Dance Music and Art festival held in Bradley, CA, on the remnants of seven spits of land that once jutted out into the nearby lake. The festival connects each spit with bridges and places large sound stages, lines of vendors, lecture halls, yoga spaces, and more along each narrow rise.
The Black Rock Observatory was positioned behind the main stage, called the Lightning Stage, as far out onto one of the two central fingers as we could get. The weather was hot during the day, and cold at night; the deep base of the Lightning Stage and its bright lights threatened our viewing experience; brambles and thorns from the native fauna, and a crowd that was half Burners and half festival raver kids constantly threw right hooks at us, made us work and suffer and strain to bring the joy of science to a place where hard science is not often found.
It was fantastic.
We worried, at first, that we would be hard to find; but as the mysterious voice told Kevin Costner so many moons ago, if you build it, they will come. And come they did, not in massive crowds but in a steady stream, so our lines never became overwhelming, and everyone there got to experience the joy we had to share.
I gave the meteorite talks in the Dome, while the telescopes stayed outside: Jupiter and Mars and Saturn were all visible in the night sky, the plane of the solar system clearly appearing to our visitors as we pointed from one to the other, and it was wonderful to be able to show people both of the giant gas planets within just a few moments. People came back night after night, bringing their friends and asking for another rendition of the meteorite talk, another look at the bands of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. We gave out the joy of science like candy, and got the same back, as the people were even more giving and loving to us than we expected or could have hoped.
In the end, one young man summed it up for all of us; he goggled and gasped as he stared at Jupiter, jumping up and down in his excitement, taking a remarkable picture through the eyepiece of the telescope with his phone, and screaming, “Oh, my God, that is Jupiter as fuck!”
Yeah. Yeah, it certainly is.