Sunday, June 21, 2009

6/20 - Early Morning Views of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Moon

I totally didn't think that I would make it out of bed at 4:30am on a Saturday morning (my wife didn't either), but somehow I found myself trudging up the stairs to the roof of my building around 4:45am - with my telescope on my back. The attraction was a super-conjunction (not a technical term...) of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Mercury and the Moon - with the Pleiades making a guest appearance. The weather was very cooperative, as the sky patiently waited for me to make my observations before totally clouding over (actually I didn't catch Mercury, which was clouded out on the horizon from the start). It was my first viewing of Mars and only my second viewing of Venus through a telescope. Venus only shows phases, which is surprisingly a both boring and spectacular sight at the same time, and Mars was pretty puny, even at 320x magnification. The seeing and transparency weren't fantastic for observing it, so there wasn't much detail available. Still, pretty awesome to see another disc in the sky. Jupiter was it's awesome self, and the Moon provided some nice viewing opportunities just before sunrise. (Which was also pretty spectacular.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

6/16 - Saturn on Johnson Avenue, Way Too Bright for M57

Finally the clouds cleared up! I had some great Chandra X-Ray Observatory material from the guys at Columbia University to hand out (I ordered a ton more - people are eating up the handouts), and had a great night of clear skies and good transparency, with seeing pretty decent. Tried for the Ring Nebula and was exactly in the right spot between Sheliak and Sulafat but the skies were just way too bright to find anything. Great night!

Monday, June 8, 2009

6/7 – Observing at Jenny Jump, New DSOs with an almost full Moon

What’s pretty wild about Jenny Jump is how much darker it is out there with a nearly full Moon compared to a new Moon night from a dark spot in New York City. Some of the highlights from yesterday:

1. Watching the Moon occult Antares around 10:50pm. This was pretty awesome. The Moon visually “overtook” a nearby star, and I watched at 120x magnification as the Moon and star slowly neared each other, culminating in the Moon’s occultation of the star (Antares). It was great watching this with 5-6 other people on their own scopes, all watching exactly the same thing at the same time. Also, it’s fun watching something actually change before your eyes in the sky, as astronomical time is, well… astronomical.

2. The Ring Nebula – AWESOME! Messier object #57, the Ring Nebula is a a planetary / emission nebula (a glowing shell of gas and plasma given off by certain types of stars when they die) in the contellation Lyra. What is pretty awesome about this object is that it looks like a cheerio! What is totally crazy about this object is that the estimated distance across the ring is about a half a light year, or a bit under 3 trillion miles.

3. Saturn is amazing, as always. Titan was clearly visible, along with either Rhea or Dione, not sure which it was.

4. M81 through a 14” LX200. Pretty awesome spiral galaxy about 12 million light years away. A light year is about 5.8 TRILLION miles.

5. M13 through a couple of 14” scopes. What a difference between my 8” and a 14”… man, telescope envy!

6. Epsilon Lyrae double double with very obvious separation of each double through a 5" apochromatic refractor, a solid $7,000 telescope (just the OTA).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

We've Been Blogged About!

Here, and reposted here! Thanks, guys!

6/2 - Saturn & Moon Viewing on Johnson Avenue

Those of you who have attended Riverdale Sidewalk Astronomy events on the corner of Johnson Avenue & 235th Street may recall that at some point during the night a bright streetlight obstructs and overpowers whatever we're looking at and we have to move the telescope a few feet to the side. It's not such a big deal, but what was great about 6/2 was that the waxing gibbous Moon and Saturn were both clearly visible on either side of the streetlight! It just took a small azimuth slew and an even smaller altitude adjustment to jump back and forth between the objects. It was a bit cloudy at times, but Saturn was generally sharp and the Moon tends to look kind of cool behind an occasional thin and moving layer of clouds. Great night out! Thanks to everyone who came!