It's pitch dark and Stephen Edberg can barely make out who is who among the dozen guests he has assembled at his personal observatory in Lockwood Valley, just north of Frazier Park.
But this lesson requires only the light of the stars, which radiate above, unmolested by city lights, like a billion pinholes in the black sky. Slowly, with Edberg's guidance, the constellations take shape — Draco the Dragon, Corona Borealis and Lyra. Then it is on to the Messier Objects, nebulae and star clusters catalogued by 18th Century French astronomer Charles Messier. And finally, the planets.
"If you look carefully at Jupiter now, you can see all four of its moons," Edberg, 57, told his guests.
The La Cañada resident and Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer has maintained his observatory, which is equipped with a retractable roof and a 14-inch telescope, since 1993 when he and eight like-minded friends bought a 5-acre plot of undeveloped land to use for star gazing. He visits whenever there is any significant terrestrial event, and is occasionally joined by colleagues or friends.