First Time In A Long Time

This winter has been fairly tough on the amateur astronomers of upstate-NY. It has been cold, and I mean the “near dangerous to be observing” kind of cold. With that in mind, not much of my gear has been used this year. It was so nice to just get out there in tolerable temperatures, and to get some fresh air out in nature. I just grabbed my grab and go rig, and setup. A 5” Explore Scientific Triplet Refractor on a Vixen Porta-Mount. The scope is a bit too heavy to get a great balance on the mount, but it just barely works for a quick setup.

Credit: Niccoló Bonfadini — This is how my driveway felt most of the winter of 2014. These photos are actually from Finland, click on the image for the originating source…amazing photos – these are trees in subzero weather

A really amazing two hours of observing tonight. Nice to not have it be horrifically cold out there. Soon the sessions can be longer as the spring nights warm up! So tonight I spent a good amount of time hopping around the constellation Orion, and lots of time on the Orion Nebula. A really amazing view using the Lumicon OIII filter attached to a Televue 6” Delos eyepiece. There were lots of wispy, nebulous features to be seen tonight. I then shifted over to the Pleiades, it was close to the moon, so there were no detections of nebulosity there, but still great to observe Atlantia as it hit just above the tree line. Then panned and scanned through the constellation Auriga, admiring many of the brightly colored stars in its open star clusters.

For a change I spent a good amount of time on the moon. The seeing was very stable, and I was able to push a lot of magnification on the craters there. The quarter moon terminator ran just perfect to really show off the 3-D nature of the many interesting and diverse craters. Not being a student of the moon, I can’t name all that I saw tonight, but there were many interesting features that almost lead me to spend some time learning all the craters I was looking at tonight.

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IO is shown just to the right of Jupiter, notice IO’s shadow just above the Great Red Spot! Image captured from Sky & Telescope’s iPad app ‘Jupiter’s Moons’

After taking a warm-up break, I went back out and brought Jupiter into view. Wow, was the seeing really great tonight, which is not common for upstate NY. I was able to push a 4.7mm eyepiece with perfect clarity on the Jovian giant. I was delighted to see the Great Red Spot just to the side of center. At first I saw three moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto. I admired the the Great Red Spot and the detailed features of the stripes, wisps and shadows in the gassy atmosphere. I had thought IO was behind the planet, and then I thought I saw it birth. All of a sudden there it was…just barely visible off the disc of Jupiter. Then the thought occurred to me, hey maybe it was in front of the great gas giant. I immediately looked back into the eyepiece, and sure enough, there was IO’s shadow hanging just above the Great Red Spot. Wow! Such detail tonight using a refractor – really makes me wish we had steadier skies every night here in the Northeast US.

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