ate spring and summer skies are sucky night skies for astronomer. No Orion. None of the favorites. It’s pretty much open space with few things to bullseye. But tonight was clear and Jupiter was on a close approach so I set up the tripod at dusk and waited for the gas giant to come into view.
Okay, first lesson learned – if you are aiming for something rising, don’t set up in the middle of the yard. Set up to the west so you can catch things coming up from the east sooner. I could see Jupiter inside an oak so I had about 45 minutes of waiting. Still, I made the constellation Ophiuchus and checked out its anchor star, Rasalhauge. While spooling about, caught a satellite going by. Of course, with no watch it would be hard to figure out which one it was. No big deal.
So after a while, I picked out Jupiter through the last of the oak leaves. And it was well worth the wait. The first thing I noticed – all four moons were visible, clustered close (I don’t think I’ve ever gotten four in the sky like that). It was clear and close, rather breathtaking. Walking up through the eyepiece power, I finally hit my max, 120x. Watch for a bit longer before I realized what I was seeing. There was a speck on the gas clouds, a “little black dot”. I watched in for a bit, then went inside and spoiled my night vision looking it up (hey, it’s Jupiter – it’s like hunting elephants). Yes, this was Io’s shadow’s transit. The moon was casting its shadow on its owning planet. I’ve never seen that before and it was amazing to watch.
Also up, the eye (if my program was correct) was visible. I think I could make it out. I tried certain filters and convinced myself that that mid-band blemish must be the eye (Lowell haunts me still). But it was quite interesting, watching Io swing through its orbit. I stuck with it for about an hour.
Made Corvus low to the south and checked out Algarab, its high star. It was listed as being a binary and there it was – the second fainter star. Stepped up the magnification and inspected it – one bright, one dim. These new eyepieces are extraordinary – same power as before but a more comfortable and detailed view. I’m quite pleased with them.
Hunted around for M104, the Sobrero Galaxy. I have no idea what I was looking for but usually galaxies are smudges. Tonight the light pollution was pretty bad, so no sombrero. Still, it was a pretty interesting night. In ways, astronomy is like fishing – there is a lot of thoughtful reflection time while one waits for one’s eye to sharpen. Overall, a good night. For a spring night.