Today is the first day of school for my youngest daughter. So, contrary to other times, I was up. As I went outside to let the dog out, I noticed that Orion was up. Orion is quite possibly my favorite constellation, as it has so many things in it to look at.
I quickly went inside and retrieved my 10 x 50 binoculars and was able to see the Orion Nebula (M42) to some extent. The dawn was already breaking, so it was not very clear because it was fighting sunlight and morning clouds.
However, it’s good to see my old friend again. I can’t wait until I can see it in darkness again.
Last night I was out just observing in general with my 10×50 binoculars. I was trying out my red dot finder and found it to be extremely helpful. I looked at Jupiter, Orion, the Pleiades, Perseus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia. Just for the fun of it, no official recording of observations. The sky was not too great in terms of transparency, about a 2-3 on the following scale. I live in a “white zone”, i.e. a place heavily impacted by light pollution. Having a street light on my property doesn’t help, either.
1 :: Mostly Cloudy
2-3 :: Hazy; 1 or 2 Little Dipper stars visible
4 :: 3-4 Little Dipper stars; Milky Way not visible
5 :: 4 Little Dipper stars; Bright parts of Milky Way visible (Scutum starcloud)
6 :: 5 Little Dipper stars; Milky Way visible with averted vision
While looking at Andromeda and Cassiopeia, I saw a rapidly moving gray object that did not have blinking lights moving from S through NW in Andromeda through the lower part of Cassiopeia around 9:18 or 9:19p. I had never seen one of these before. It was most likely a satellite.
With a little help from people in the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers group, I was able to access a database of satellite passes at Heavens-Above.com, but didn’t see my newfound friend.
Interesting. There were other satellites in the general area, but none that were flying from S through NW around lower Cassiopeia at that time. Maybe it was one of those satellites that aren’t on the official register, or perhaps an NSA satellite keeping an eye on us or the little green men were involved.
I left work a little early, as we had a blizzard recently, and I had a number of cancellations at the psychotherapy practice for which I work. I looked up at the sky, and as is typical for after a major storm, the sky was clear. Cassiopeia was clear as day.
But, we are talking about MY luck, right? I got home and had to get a few things done around the house, then we had a guest, and then I went outside, and clouds had formed. Cassiopeia was gone. Orion was around (it often is), but I saw that the last time. Jupiter was in a clear patch, so I took a pic or two.
Couldn’t get any real detail on Jupiter–that will have to wait until I start bringing out the telescope (too darn cold right now–14 degrees F, with a wind chill of 5 degrees F! Brrrrr!). But, I was able to see Castor and Pollux, the “twins” of Gemini with the naked eye (the conditions stunk, so that’s all of what I was able to see of Gemini). When I took the picture, I took it at the widest setting, and cropped like mad. Picture quality did improve compared to earlier pics, and I noted that Castor appeared to be a blue star! I had never seen a blue star before! Of course, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it turns out that the blueness is an artifact of the fact that it is light from several very close stars (see below). Even on the cruddiest nights, one can experience new things.
α Gem (Castor): the second brightest in the constellation [of Gemini] after Pollux. Castor is a sextuple star system 52 light-years from Earth, which appears as a magnitude 1.6 blue-white star to the unaided eye. Two spectroscopic binaries are visible at magnitudes 1.9 and 3.0 with a period of 470 years. A wide-set red dwarf star is also a part of the system; this star is an Algol-typeeclipsing binary star with a period of 19.5 hours; its minimum magnitude is 9.8 and its maximum magnitude is 9.3.
These are some extra things that I did during my observation on 14-1-20 that aren’t necessarily going to go towards the AL Observation Program stuff. I also talk about my use of binoculars (binos), and some learning experiences in astrophotography.
Basically, when I did the observation, I focused on naked eye observing, looking with a Nikon Aculon 10×50 binocular (on a tripod) and taking pictures with my Canon 60D using my Tamron 18-270mm lens (with a polarizing filter–forgot to take it off) which was on a tripod. While doing the observations for the 20th, I also focused on Jupiter and the Moon, which was waning. It was a pretty busy night. However, I think, for now, that I like this mix of naked eye, binocular work, and astrophotography. It works.
I’m going to bring out the Dobsonian (think big reflecting telescope) when things get warmer, as it has to cool down for an hour, and takes some other time for set up and take down.
For now, I really like binocular observations. Binoculars aren’t as sexy as telescopes. They also aren’t amenable to things like filters, and they only has one set magnification capability (side note–for astronomy–NO ZOOM BINOS–it degrades the quality of the image). However, they have some definite pluses. The best explanation of these I’ve found is here:
Getting back to the other stuff observed that night, I saw Jupiter and the Moon.
Jupiter in 10×50 binos and a 270mm camera lens is simply a white dot. I think that looking at it through a telescope will make a better difference when looking at it in terms of being able to see the bands of Jupiter. Still, I did try to take a picture of it. My mistake was zooming in on it to take the picture, which led to a need for a slower shutter speed due to a smaller aperture. But, this whole blog is about the learning curve, so here we go:
I also took pictures of the Moon.
I think that the tactic of taking pictures using prime lenses and/or zoom lenses at their widest point, then cropping the heck out of the pics will be my preliminary strategy, in addition to applying the Rule of 500 (which I learned about after this observation). The cropped image of the Moon pretty much suggests that this is what would work.
Hey, it’s a work in progress, folks. Hope you join me in learning.