Some Lunar Views and Spotting Saturn’s Cassini Divide

I love setting up a telescope with the Sun setting and the sky slowly transitioning from day to night. There is something exciting about planning what will be viewed and the anticipation of what is to come.

The night started out with some brief views of the crescent Moon. This is my favorite time to view the lunar surface. The shadows that are cast from the mountains and craters display incredible depth and make the Moon almost appear 3d though the eyepiece. Sadly, anything over half full and its surface becomes boringly flat, turning the Moon into a nuisance that does nothing more than spoil the view of deep sky objects with its light pollution.

Continuing into the evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Saturn was visible in the early nighttime sky. Easily, a favorite of mine and Lauren’s, its rings are now tilted to a point that will offer incredible views of the planet for years to come. Pushing the telescope up to 200 times magnification revealed the beautiful angle of its rings as well as the cassini divide that splits the rings themselves.

Holding up my iPhone to the eyepiece, I was able to take some pretty good video of the planet. The cassini divide is too thin to view in the video, but you can easily make out the divide between the rings and planet disc itself.

Starlog: May 25th & 26th, 2012

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The Summer of Clouds

With the fall air turning ever so colder, I thought it would be a good time do an overview of how my “summer of astronomy” went. Being a teacher, I was looking forward to June, July and August to provide me with some late night observation opportunities. While, there were some nice and clear nights throughout those 3 months, I was surprised at how cloudy it was during most evenings and nights. Even though there were not as many opportunities to go out this summer as I had hoped, there was one object in particular that I was very excited to observe, and the summer months did allow me some great views of it.

Saturn is probably my favorite object to view, so using the new 6mm Zhumell eyepiece at 200x magnification on it over the summer was quite a treat. As opposed to last year, where Saturn’s rings were head on with Earth providing a less than spectacular showing, this year they appeared much more tilted from our perspective as part of Saturn’s 29 year orbit around the Sun. This will continue to provide memorable views and glimpses of the famous Casini divide over the next 10 years. As was pointed out in my review of the Zhumell 6mm Planetary Eyepiece, the views provided from it were sharp and detailed from edge to edge providing the best sights of Saturn I have seen to date from my telescope.

While the Summer of 2011 was a bit of a disappointment overall, there were still several times when I was able to take out the telescope for some good viewings. This just goes to show that it is always a good idea to take advantage of the clear nights you are given, because you never know when another one will come along again.

Abby’s Night Out

Showing and explaining to others the objects that can be viewed through a telescope is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an amateur astronomers. This is especially true when it involves introducing the world of astronomy to kids. This past summer, my 9 year old sister Abby was out with me observing some sights one evening. Before we finished up the night, I let her take control of the scope and she moved it around, finding some interesting targets along the way, all by herself.

Abby took command of the 40 lb dobsonian telescope like a seasoned pro. After going over some basic instructions, she began to move the scope around, hunting down some pretty impressive targets.  Using a low powered eyepiece, Abby started off with three bright stars. Following this, she gave several attempts before successfully viewing an airplane as it zipped through the finder scope’s field of view. The main events of the night, however, were the Moon and Saturn both of which were partially obstructed by trees and not easy to spot. To her delight, Abby was able to make out the rings of Saturn as well as a few of it’s Moons.

Astronomy can be a wonderful way to introduce children and adults alike to the fascinating aspects of science. Abby’s night out with the telescope helped to make the universe in which we live a little more real and exciting for her. I encourage all amateur astronomers to reach out to others and relinquish the reign of control over your telescope to observers of all ages. They may surprise you and themselves as to what they can find with the nudge of a scope and the will to explore.