Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Venus and Jupiter (vaporized!)

I again found the planets just a few minutes ago [Tue, 23 Feb 1999 11:57:35 (PST)] by shielding my eyes and looking approximately 27 degrees east of the sun along an imagied ecleptic to where they should be located.

In my 35mm eyepiece (10" f/5.6 Dob) they were less than 1/5th the field of view apart, whereas yesterday they were at opposite edges of the field. The change was obvious.

Venus was very bright, Jupiter quite washed out. I bumped up to my 10mm Ortho and still had both planets in view. Then Jupiter disappeared, followed shortly by Venus.

Looking up, I realized they'd been vaporized by clouds. :-(

Still, a very nice sight while it lasted.

Monday, February 22, 1999

South of the Valley: Darkness and Light

I went out several times tonight, to look at the conjunction of our two brightest planets. Lovely sight. Although I knew how big a degree of sky was, it never the less surprised me to see just how much sky my eyepiece field of view can be, by looking at the separation, naked eye, between these two planets tonight. My daughter, looking up, asked about observing the moon (sometimes I worry about her ;-). I took out the 10" f/5.6 and threw in a 10.5 mm Meade Research Grade Otho, and showed her the area around Triesnecker, carefully letting her take in the beautiful Rima Hyginus, with its large crater breaking the flow of the shallow valley, and the small chain of craterlets that make up part of its length. Carefully showing her the crater for which the famous rilles are named, we followed in great detail the dashes and slashes that make up the Rimae Triesnecker. She had a wonderful time, and so did I.

So much so, that I came out again later, to look again by myself and take a note or two...

Just south the blackened gash of the Valis Alpes, bound in against the terminator by the Montes Caucasus, throwing deep long shadows eastward... south of the rubble fields and west of Montes Alpes, sits the crater Cassini.

Tonight, the morning sun lit the western mantle of the crater, and the inner rim of the eastern wall. The only other light was on the top rims, encircling the crater, and a few sparse brightened areas on the crater floor. The two inner craters that reside as captives of Cassini stood out like volcanic chimneys, stark with their bright ring-like rims and black cores. Their shadows were responsible for the hidden eastern floor of their parent crater, as was the big crater's high western wall for the darkness around its prisoners.

To Cassini's south, the western slopes of crater Aristillus rose, showing channels, clefts and rubble in intricate detail, while the rest of the crater, and what is perhaps an ancient buried crater wall barely visible as a slight risen partial circle to its north, lay cloaked in increasing shadow. The eastern rim of Aristillus too was in darkness. Moving south, much rubble and disturbed terrain was on the terminator between Aristillus and Autolycus, finally rising abruptly upward at that crater. Autolycus literally rose like a wall at that point. This crater too was a black hole ringed by a delicate ribbon of white light on its rim.

Still south, the peaks toward Palus Putredinis rose in brilliance, alone, with all the Palus is shadow. The entire extent of Rimae Frensel snaked along, cloacked here and there in shadows thrown from the western peaks of Mons Hadley, Santos-Dumont and Promontorium Frensel. In moments of good seeing, the Rimae was sharp, and double.

A bird flew across the field of view, making a small live silhouetted interruption against the cold features of the moon, and causing me to come back to my own planet and look up.

The moon was already shrouded in increasing clouds, drawing to an end another night observing.

Jupiter Venus conjunction

Sweet view! 10" f/5.6 with a 35mm Orion Ultrascopic. Venus at 11 and Jupiter at 4 o'clock in the same eypeiece view. I used The Sky to find the Jup/Ven were about 27 degree from the Sun, then went outside and estimated the distance. I stood so the sun was shielded from my view, and there, in the blue, was a small white dot.

Using my Telrad (cupping my hand over it to darken the background) I got the pair in with no problem. Venus, in the low power, was brilliant, and about 1/2 the angular size of Jupiter (rough estimate), while Jupiter was a ghostly pale gray opposite in the field of view. I bumped up the power, but Jupiter refused to give any detail, it just became a larger gray disk. Venus though showed a very nice pahse, just past half full (is that just past 1Q or 3rQ Venus?).

I have to admit, it is fun to find planets in the daytime!

Monday, February 1, 1999

More naked eye astronomy - Casual Observations

I'm in the middle of an intense work schedule, and my eyes are crossing from looking at the computer monitor. So, I took a short break, walked out in the backyard at 6 p.m. as the daylight was fading and night was rising in the east.

Bright in the west, Venus was blazing away, Jupiter was next up looking like a more distant and therefore dimmer Venus. Up high rode Saturn, pale yellow in comparison to the two bright planets. Looking very much like Mars, east of zenith, sat Aldebaran, nicely reddened, with its bright twin further east, Betelgeuse. Only Rigel, bright white to Betelgeuse's south seemed out of place. The others formed a nice gently curving sweep from west to east.

A nice treat for tired eyes.