Observation Report from Backyard 01/26/02
We had a 95% Moon and a slight haze as the night went on, but that still doesn’t stop us. There was plenty to see. Had a few friends over including one (Leon) who never saw in a telescope before. Our main targets were of course Jupiter, Saturn, a few open clusters, lots of double stars and that other real big thing, what was it….Oh yeah, the Moon! Some of us forget to go out and look at the Moon once in while, it’s really a spectacle.
Our first target, Jupiter, was outstanding tonight. The sky, although bright, was still and clear. The Red Spot was just coming around into view. Very clear. It looked like a women’s eye with eyeliner around it. The Red Spot was not red, it was basically clear but well defined by the rim around it. In the center was a slightly brighter redder area but that detail was very subtle. Three moons were visible to the right in a triangle shape. More about the moons later. Next was Saturn, which is a spectacular sight an a clear night. The Cassini Division was clean and steady. The dark area of the globe was well defined. There were 6 of us, so I didn’t spend too much time looking for details. Leon was amazed as most people are seeing Saturn for the first time. Next, I pointed the scope at open cluster M35 that was very close to the moon. I can’t believe how many stars were not there. It wasn’t really worth looking at. M37 and M38 were better, but we didn’t spend a lot of time there.
I’ve been working on a list of 100 double stars from the Astronomy league. We went though about 8 or 10 of these. A few highlights were;
Delta Geminorum, mag 3.5/8.2 sep 6.8”, real nice one, a bright yellow star with a dimmer red companion. The 8.2 red star looked so small. Really liked this.
Alpha Geminorum or Castor, mag 1.9/2.9 sep 2.2”, can’t believe I never looked at this before. Looked like bright headlights off in the distance.
Zeta Cancri mag 5.6/6.0 sep 5.9”, both stars are yellow, looked like yellow headlights off in the distance.
Iota Cancri mag 4.2/6.6 sep 30”, another Alberio like double. Clearly a yellow or even close to orange star with an ice blue companion. Very nice. Wide separation. Should be an easy target for any scope.
Gamma Leonis, don’t know why, but it always seems like the Gamma star in every constellation is a winner. Leo is no exception. At mag 2.2/3.5 sep 4.4, this is a very striking pair of gold stars. What a pair! At 4.4 separation it should be a good one at high magnification in almost any telescope. Give it a shot, next time out. It’s easy to find, it’s the bright star in the sickle of Leo (the Lions head portion) that connects the sickle to the body of the Lion.
We did see a few more, but those were the best. Now back to Jupiter. Here’s something we just happen to catch, I’ve never seen before. About 10:30 we noticed one of the moons was getting close to the edge of Jupiter. At first we though it was going to vanish behind the globe which we've seen before. But then I realized, when that moon vanishes behind the globe, it’s on the other side. This is the side it should emerge from. But clearly it was getting closer. At last! A Moon transit. Not a shadow transit mind you. We were going to get to see the moon itself cross the globe. What a thrill! We watched as it got closer and closer. Then it touched the globe, just as when disappearing. But it didn’t vanish. There it was, not longer on the edge but still visible against the globe. It was right on top of one of the belts so we had a clear view. What a sight! Real three-dimensional. That shinny little moon just sitting there clearly in front of the globe. We watched till about 11:15. It was getting cold and people had to leave. I was tempted to stay up and watch it some more alone, but I had so much stuff out, I was glade to have the help braking it down and carrying it all in the house. That really made everyone’s night. Like a grand finale. Who says it’s a waste of time observing under the full moon. Heck! You don’t even need the red flashlight!