The Grand Tour (5/30/2015)

The Grand Tour (5/30/2015)

nce a month or so, my friend Greg comes over and we watch flicks together. The couple of times he’s come over to watch since I got my scope, we’ve had clouds. Finally, last night, we had a great viewing night.

Well, great for planets – the moon was up and full, putting out even more glare than OUC ever managed. Worse, we’re in our lousy viewing part of the year – no good constellations, no good things to look out. But on the plus, Saturn is in opposition, about the best we’ll see it. Before he arrived, I stationed the scope at the best spot for the ecliptic, got it lined and leveled, and then went back inside to meet my guest.

We watched a show (“Misfits”) and then went to dinner. When we came out of the restaurant, it was clear as a bell. In the ten minutes it took to drive home, it clouded up again. Dejected by the heavens, we went inside for a bit. Then, about 9pm we took a look and the skies were good (little haze but no clouds). So we went outside and I fitted the barlow lens over the 10mm and swung the 4.7″ tube around and cocked it high; first stop – Jupiter.

And what a magnificent view we had. At 120X, we could see it arrayed with all four moons, the bands visible (but will I ever see that spot?). Greg marveled at what he could see, and we kept it aligned on that planet for some time, just trading hits off the eyepiece. Stellar view (no pun intended).

Then, before going in (the moon and Saturn were still below our trees), we swung it over to Venus, descending to the west. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it quite so defined before – usually it’s just a small glowing blob, too bright to really get anything off of. This time, she was half-illuminated, the terminus clear from top to bottom. Greg and I were both taken by this and tracked it for some time, just stunned by… I don’t know… the 3D nature of something that usually looks 2D to me? Probably.

Watched most of The Deer Hunter – now it was about 1am. Went back outside and caught the moon as it lofted over us, due south. I’d backed off the barlow and was just running the 10mm with a filter (a little close for casual but good for detail). The moon was quite the showpiece of the night – yes, I know, you’re supposed to see it when a terminus lights up the craters but still – there it was. Pointed out several of the places where Tubitz and Mergenstein will take place (I am such a fanboy of the Sea of Crisis). We looked her up, top to bottom, for some time. Just amazing.

Back inside for another 45 minute show. Came back out and Saturn was now up at 3am or so, high and right where we thought she’d be. Rebuilt the barlow to the 10mm, filter off, lined it up and focused it in. And there was Saturn, as clear as I’d ever seen her, separate rings and faint planetary bandings. Greg, JB and I all spent time on the eyepiece, just tracking it in its slow journey across the southern sky. I’d stand to one side (and occasionally reacquire the planet, using the fine tuner as someone else called “more… more… almost… there!”. And I kept thinking “okay, one more look and then we should go in”. But every time I took the eyepiece I found myself fascinated with what I saw. I think we were there for an hour, until our old bodies could no longer hold those hunched positions (gotta find out what sorts of chairs astronomers might use).

But overall, a fantastic evening. After Greg left about 4am, I thought about how much I’m enjoying that scope as I stood under a pre-dawn sky, breaking down the tripod. A good evening all around: one night, four clean viewings.