Monday, October 13, 1997

A Short Night Observing

I had a free hour last night, so I hauled my 8" f/7 dob out back. The sky was very clear, Jupiter and the moon were very bright, and their air was chilly enough to require a sweater. I guess summer is really gone (at least summer evenings).

Funny, how habitual some objects become. There I was, the moon quite large, and of course, I looked for a deep sky object. M15 was just resolving using my 19 Panoptic. The star field it sat behind was pinpoint bright stars. For a moment or two, I wondered what it would be like to be looking out from that cluster toward the sun.... what objects would we see? I suppose it would be all the spring objects, with a bit of a different perspective.

So, after confirming that one could in fact view deep space objects with a big moon out, I decided to look at the offending light source. Well, it was spectacular. Just a bit of 'shake' to the image, but it was really quite steady. Along the terminator, peaks were casting long shadows that crossed crater floors. Craters right on the terminator appeared to be oblong black holes in the surface. Rills were easy to pick out in stark detail. Even days past good viewing, I could find the Straight Wall, Rupee's Ricta (sp, for sure!), the Alpine Valley and more. The markings inside the larger crater walls was outstanding. Oh, yes... I was now using a 10.5mm Meade eyepiece.

Probably the most outstanding view on the moon was Schroeder's Valley (is that right? man, am I moon illiterate!). The "river" coming from atop the volcano was black, the sunlight hitting it just right to clearly define its path. In fact, the flow mark seemed to spread out and fill the plain toward the north. The plain itself seems to be rough, in a nearly rectangular shape, with the long axis heading north from the volcano. The plain had some rubble in it, and was a darker tone than the surrounding areas outside the rectangle.

I hunted around the moon for some time, noting the nice cracks that ran, apparently, under some mountains close to the terminator. I wonder how that happened?

I turned the scope toward Jupiter, and thought "where's the detail"...

I watched for a bit, and suddenly, everything (embellishment) was visible. Well, what was observable (about 9:30 p.m.) was the Great Red Spot. Unless I am mistaken (and there is a new large feature on the planet), the GRS was dead center on the upper (southern) equatorial belt. And what detail! The SEB was obviously pinched in from the souther edge. Between the SEB and the GRS was, or so it seemed, a white curved channel, clearly separating the SET from the GRS. The GRS itself.... well....

I have never, never, seen it so clearly. It was so fantastic, I called my wife out to have a look. She could see it also, with no problem. The thing looked like a BIG EYE on the planet! Further to the south, bordering the GRS, was another dark band. In the NEB, there were lots of disturbances, but I could not really make them out. If I went to my 7mm eyepiece, the view got mushy. I looked at the GRS for quite some time.

I then went indoors for an hour and watched the first episode of Steven Hawkings six part series, which I found interesting and entertaining.

After that, I went outside again for a short time and viewed, you can probably guess, Saturn.

Jupiter was now too low to be useful, so the ringed one was the show. I was amazed at the difference in tone between the southern band just off the rings, and the southern polar area. It seemed to me that there were several bands of like tones, some creamy, others gray. Cassini's Division was no sweat, and although I am never quite sure if I see it, I felt there were hints of the Crepe Ring. A bit more power and steadier skies would have helped. To the north of the rings, the sphere was monochrome grayish white/yellow. I could pick out what I assume were four moons, maybe five if on bright distant one was also a moon (I haven't looked any of this up). Two of the moons, quite dim, were very close together. I would try averting my vision to see if any more moons appeared, but none did. However, by averting, the two close together dim moons were obvious.

It had been a busy day, with work and kids, and I was tired. I went in to watch a bit of the news on tv. It was warm in the house. I began thinking of the winter nights at the Peak, and the possibility of buying some electric socks. It had been a nice night.... so nice that I've left the scope set up in the backyard as enticement to go out again tonight....

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