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Around 1:00am tonight, I took out the telescope to view Jupiter, which is about as close as it'll be until 2022. First the bad news: My 'scope's hand controller stopped working, so I couldn't align it, use the clock drive, or anything else. Better news: I can still sight and capture objects without all those modern doohickeys, even if I've been spoiled by a robotic GPS system. Best news: Without realizing tonight was a big deal, I happened to catch Io's transit across the disk of Jupiter. Wow, whatta sight! Looked a lot like this tonight:

Click the image to see more Jupiter photos by AztecastroMcJ on Flickr.

It was a bit of a pain to adjust both altitude and azimuth every few seconds to keep Jupiter and its mini planetary system in the eyepiece's field of view, but I pulled up a stool and just nudged it as needed. Just like the old days, before battery-powered, satellite-sensing, cylon-scopes took over.

Right now, Jupiter is so darned bright that I used filters to see if one might improve the view (partially by dimming it, partially by filtering out too-bright colors), and indeed the Mars filter brought out a huge variety of textures and colors in Jupiter's stormy atmosphere. But I ended up preferring the warm, natural colors of my favorite planet sans filter in a William Optics 33mm Swan mega-eyepiece (about the size of a small telescope). The Baader Planetarium 17mm Hyperion eyepiece provided a pretty kick-ass view at twice the magnification, but having to adjust every second or three inspired me to use the big, low-power unit instead.

I couldn't identify the high-contrast dark spot on the face of Jupiter - alien vessel? asteroid strike? - but figured it must be one of its Galilean satellites. When I got back inside, a quick search found this super-neat applet to find the position of Jupter's moons, and discovered I was, indeed, right - it was Io. To see the Jovian system as I saw it during the transit, set the time to 06:30 (when I first captured Jupiter) through 07:00 (when Jupiter started grazing the treetops in my back yard) at -5 time offset. What an AWESOME tool! Want to know which moons you're seeing on a particular night, or plan your viewing for during an occultation or transit? Check out this page first.

Okay, now the super-excited is wearing off a little and the sleepy is hitting. G'night, and clear skies!



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you had successful astro-time. Yay!
Sep. 30th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Finally! Though I wouldn't call discovering that my hand controller is broken completely successful, this was my first time seeing a Jovian transit live in person!
Sep. 30th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Qualifiers, schmalifiers. You got to see something cool and exciting! Counts as a success in my book.
Oct. 1st, 2010 02:45 am (UTC)
That right there is some tasty astro-porn!

Never having had the budget for a battery-powered, satellite-sensing, cylon-scope I remember the nudge factor with fondness.
Oct. 1st, 2010 06:14 am (UTC)
It really was a pleasure, bumping up the hands-on, I-did-this factor by a factor of 10. Don't know why I didn't get a Dobsonian in the first place....

Oh, yeah, astrophotography. *sigh*
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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