All 8 Planets, Present and Accounted For

Hanging out with Lauren at four o’clock in the morning can only mean one thing…telescope time.  Before you pass judgment on my late night priorities, let me mention that on this night Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune could all be viewed in the night time sky.  See, I knew you would understand!

Jupiter
Looking to the east, right over top of our trees revealed the very bright, Jupiter.  I have viewed the king of planets once before with the XT8i, but the conditions were so cold and windy that I saw nothing but a hazy blur.  Tonight, the view was drastically improved.  The interesting thing about viewing Jupiter right now is that one of its cloud belts is missing (more about that, in this CNN Article)

Only viewing one cloud belt instead of the typical two, made Jupiter look oddly alien (pun intended).  Little fine detail could be picked up because of Jupiter’s low level in the sky, which created poor atmospheric conditions and because my scope hadn’t had proper time to cool to the outside air.

Uranus & Neptune
Having never observed these two, I was eager to complete my list of planets viewed in our solar system (My apologies to Pluto Lovers).  Uranus, no laughs please, was just to the upper right of Jupiter.  Finding it was easy and the light blue star, while a bit unspectacular was nonetheless exciting.  At 120X magnification, I wasn’t sure if I could make out a small sphere or not.  Neptune proved to be much more of a challenge to find.  Using Distant Suns Lite (the best free iPod Touch astronomy app) I was able to star hop from the constellation Capricornus to Acquarius, which led me to our outer most gas giant.  Neptune appeared nothing more than a somewhat bright medium range star.  However, the hunt to track it down and knowing that I had now viewed all planets in the solar system made it a much more exciting object to view.

Calling it a Night
With our lack of sleep catching up to us and a really creepy person walking in the road with no flashlight at 4:30 in the morning brought our night to an end.  As we were heading in, I noticed a dim light coming from the distance, I asked Lauren what she thought it was and she said “probably the Sun”.  Right she was, as the rays were beginning to illuminate the night sky with the hope of a new day at the dawn of the new light.

Star Log: June 20, 2010 (4:00am-4:30am)

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