Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

tonight's astro-viewing

I should have been grading, but how long has it been since I spent some quality time with the sky? So I went out to the garage and brought out the 100mm binoculars. These are mounted on a vintage German equatorial mount, and after much fiddling with the leg-height (geez is it uncomfortable to use binocs unless you get just the right angle; luckily, the legs extend to six feet) and fiddling with the RA and DEC controls, I was finally able to view the waxing-gibbous Moon:

With binoculars, your brain does an interesting thing and processes each eye's separate view of high-contrast images like the Moon against a black sky as 3-D. Pretty neat! But the challenge of monkeying around with the mount and craning my neck to peer through the eyepieces finally got me to put away the binoculars and fetch the XT10. Funny how I had grabbed the binocs first, thinking they would be the simpler observing tool but they ended up being much more trouble. There is nothing as pleasant as spending the evening with a Dobsonian-mounted reflector telescope: It's just point and use, and tracking an object across the sky is as simple as nudging the little knob at the end of the tube.

So I started off with the Moon, but first installed my adjustable polarizing filter to reduce the overwhelming brightness. Even with it dialed down to pretty dim, the Moon blazes like the sun in such a big telescope! I wear an eye-patch over the eye that isn't actively observing to reduce strain, so when I moved away from the eyepiece to look up unaided, the eye-patch-protected eye could see stars that the observing eye simply couldn't. I wonder how my pupils look at such moments!

I spent some time wandering across the Moon, varying magnification with other eyepieces, zooming in on the shadowy mountains between lit surface and the blackness beyond: No atmosphere on the Moon means it's either bright or black with no twilight. When the Moon is in the gibbous phase, you can see so many fresh craters pocking the surface, white-rimmed against the dark maria and ancient gray craters. The Moon is still one of my favorite places to visit, no matter how many times I return.

Next I spent some time just roaming the sky, picking out bright gold stars and orange stars and double stars. Lovely and calming. I wanted to put off my visit to Jupiter for a while, because that is still my favorite object in the night sky.

Jupiter looks about like this through a 10" telescope like mine:

The sky was a bit too unstable and Jupiter rode just above the neighbor's roof, so I could not see much detail in the clouds. But oh so lovely! The four Galilean moons were arrayed as bright disks, two to each side.

I moved off for some more random viewing, then returned to Jupiter for a few more mintues, and ended with a final voyage to the Moon.

Now to bed.

Tags: astronomy

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