Warm weather and clear skies have finally moved into the Roanoke area. (Warm weather of course meaning temperatures in the high 30’s) After weeks of nasty snow storms and consistently cold weather “Clear Skies Are Back”. With this warmer weather comes the opportunity to finally extensively use my Orion XT8i Telescope. I’ve only been able to use my telescope a handful of times since Christmas. This Saturday proved to be a good test of its abilities.
After seeing some very interesting plays done on campus (Yeah, I’m talking to you crazy, murdering, lesbian lovers) Saturday Night’s line up for Lauren and I included Mars and Saturn. I have viewed all of these objects before with this telescope but not with a 2x barlow lens to really push the magnification. Thanks to a gracious professor at Roanoke College who allowed me to borrow the lens, I was able to view Mars and Saturn for the first time at 240x magnification.
Lauren and I were able to make out some very distinct land features on Mars that we had never seen before. At the previous 120x magnification, I could make out the polar ice caps and some subtle hints of land features. With the 2x barlow lens added Lauren and I were both able to clearly make the Northern ice cap but more amazingly dark land features, specifically Syrtis Major, which is a low-level shield Volcano remnant. Lauren described it as looking like a dark spot and I thought it looked like Africa. Here is a good representation of what we viewed.
Following Mars we viewed the always beautiful Saturn a little after midnight. Saturn’s Rings are at a fairly flat viewing angle (equinox) to Earth for the next couple years but Lauren could make out a little bit of the divide between the rings and the planet. We could also make out 4 of Saturn’s moons including the impressively bright, Titan.
Here is how Saturn looked, needles to say it made my night! And yes the Enterprise was there, I swear
(Don’t ask Lauren)
All in all it was a very enjoyable night out on the Front Quad of Roanoke College.
PS-Thanks to all of you who took great concern in seeing my telescope out by itself with a sticky note on it reading “Be Right Back” (The first time I took it out on campus it had three sticky notes on it “Do Not Touch” “College Property” and “Under Servelance”)
Yeah, I know it was spelled wrong!
Clear Skies All,