Blog Sunday Aug 7th 2011
Having just returned from Italy where it was clear night after night I really had missed my observatory! Patrick Moore had said to me some 10 years ago when I asked him if he was going to be observing some astronomical event or other that night? “No” came his reply “I will be away from my observatory” at the time I didn’t really understand the answer, not until I had my own observatory and had built up an intimate bond with it through time, use and numerous observations could I understand that sentiment! Astronomy and my ‘special place’ with my ‘stuff’ are these days for me pretty much inextricably linked.
Anyhow enough of that, I had missed my obsy whilst away and was pretty keen to get out there and observe upon my return. Well the evening proved to be clear and promising but after the return trip from Italy, the dreaded un-packing and chasing around the garden and allotment on a frantic catch up mission I was pretty shattered. So I was to bed early but before I pulled down the ‘eye blinds’ I did set the alarm for 4am! I had yet to make a telescopic observation of Jupiter during this opposition, my friends Simon Kidd and Andrew Robertson where already blazing a trail in that direction and in addition to Jupiter Simon Kidd had in fact already got a very early and rather ‘sniffy’ image of Mars to his credit. If these prompts to pull a finger out from friends weren’t enough, I had been beguiled with a blazing Jupiter rising above the hills of Piedmont in the early hours a number of times during the previous week.
Surprisingly it wasn’t too much of a struggle to leave my bed at 4am, with a brew in hand I was soon outside and into the obsy, with the roof open and the cool morning air on my face and the faintest whiff of autumn in my nostrils I looked up and wondered at Jupiter, I was struck by just how high it was this opposition, ‘how exciting’ I thought to myself.
The 6” 153mm F9 triplet refractor, piggy backed on the big reflector was my weapon of choice for the job this morning. With a diagonal in place Jupiter was soon in the field of a long focal 32mm plossl, with 4 moons nicely spaced and very prominent it was a classic and very pleasing view. I ducked back into the office took my trusty Denk binoviewer out of its case and loaded in my Celestron Axiom 23mm ep’s. With the short refractor nose piece combo attached I soon had focus with the diagonal still in place and was enjoying a lot closer observation, it was just wonderful, crisp, detailed and steady, seeing looked good. I replaced the 23’s with a pair of 15mm Panoptics, this pushed the power up (238x) and really started to give the view photographic qualities. My eye was drawn to a very prominent dark mark in the NEB on the meridian and to another fainter but not dissimilar mark close to the exiting limb. At first I thought it was a shadow transit but the satellite positions and distances from the planet put paid to that idea. I returned to the office tore a page out of one of my white art sketch pads, drew a pencil line around something round on my desk in the centre of the paper clipped it onto my clip board and got back out into the fresh morning air to capture the scene. See sketch here
The result isn’t my most proficient or scientific planetary sketch, I’m rather rusty and out of practice on such subject matter, but it is a record of a memorable observation, which has subsequently proven to be pretty accurate after the leading planetary imager Dave Tyler posted some hi- res images of a very similar timing.
With the sketch under my belt and the sky rapidly brightening I slewed the scope towards Mars, low in the east, unfortunately it was just obscured by a neighbours tree some I’m going to have to wait a week or so for my first squint at the red fellow.
A pleasing start to a Sunday, Dale