Visual Observations - Page 12

From time to time I will add visual observations here that I did not make a sketch of but may still be of interest to observers.

Click here to see page 11 of Visual Observations


1) An Observing Report of Planetary Alignments, February 22nd, 1999

2) An Observing Report of the Jupiter and Venus Conjunction, February 23, 1999

3) A Comparison of Astrophotography and Visual Observing was added on April 19, 2015.

4) An observing report of the Springtime Sky was added on April 22, 2015.

5) An observing report of the Jupiter Venus Conjunction, March 5, 1988 was added on May 6, 2015.

6) An observing Report of the early morning sky was added on May 16th, 2015.

7) Visual observations of Jupiter, Venus, and the spingtime sky using the using the unaided eye was added on the July 5th, 2015.

8) An observing Report of Saturn and Antares using the unaided eye was added on August 3, 2015.

9) An observing Report of Venus and the fall and winter constellations using the unaided eye was added on September 3, 2015.

10) An Observing Report of the Total Eclipse of the Harvest Moon, September 27, 2015 was added October 12th, 2015.

11) An Observing Report of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Regulus, November 12, 2015, added October 12th, 2015.

12) An Observing Report of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, November 8, 2015, added November 12th, 2015.

10) An Observing Report of the Total Eclipse of the Harvest Moon, September 27, 2015 was updated on January 13th, 2016. October 12th, 2015.

1) An observing Report of a Planetary Alignments , February 22nd, 1999 was added on March 22, 2015.

I was driving home from work tonight and saw a neat planetary alignment. Mercury was near the horizon, with Venus and Jupiter to the upper left, of them, and Saturn and the first quarter Moon to further the to the left. It really gave me the impression in of the solar system in a three dimensional way. Cool!

Plus Orion's belt pointed to Sirius one way and pointed to the Moon in the other way. Venus and Jupiter have getting closer to each other in the western sky and will be in conjunction with other tomorrow.


2) Jupiter and Venus Conjunction, February 23, 1999 was added on March 9th, 2015.

I set up the AP 180mm f/9 to observe the Venus and Jupiter conjunction in the western sky. They were less than one quarter apart, and when sky grew dark they were a striking pair. I had to set the telescope up early and start observing as they as the planets would start to go behind trees in the western sky.

It was a mostly clear and cold night with the temperature around 20 degrees. The seeing and limiting magnitude were around 4.0

When I first observed the planets through the telescope at 29x (56mm Meade Super Plossel) I was struck how much brighter Venus was (at magnitude - 4.2) than Jupiter was (at magnitude -2.1). In addition Venus had a gibbous shape, and appeared larger than Jupiter.

Jupiter showed some detail, including the South Polar Region, the South Equatorial Belt, the Equatorial Zone, the North Equatorial Belt, and the North Polar Region. There were hints of additional detail in and along the North Equatorial Belt, but the seeing wasn't great.

Through the telescope Europa appeared light blue in color, Callisto blue, Io red, and Ganymede green in color. These colors may have been due to the seeing.

I tried various eyepiece combinations in the 2" star diagonal, including the 56mm Meade, 35mm and 27mm Panoptics, but the 27mm's seemed to work best giving the seeing conditions. I tried also the new 30mm Ultima eyepieces in the binoviewer to observe the Moon, which was one day past first quarter stage, and nd the view reminded me of a photograph.

As the sky grew darker the planets seemed even more striking to the unaided eye. It was one of the most memorable observations I ever had.


3) A Comparison of Astrophotography and Visual Observing was added on April 19, 2015.

When I bought my first 60mm refractor in 1973 the only option I had to record what I was seeing through the telescope was by making a sketch.

I did not know it at the time but each time I observed and made another sketch I was training my eye to see more detail. Decades later I still observe and sketch at the eyepiece.

By observing and sketching I felt I was making a connection with the Moon, planet, or other celestial body I observed, and looked to observing them each year to see how their features had changed. It was like saying "Hi" to some old friends.

In 1980 I bought a C8, and like many other people at the time I got into astrophotography, in particular Deep Sky Astrophotography.

The C8's made at this worked fine for visual observing, but in order to get consistent results for deep sky astrophotography it needed some other accessories as well, which made the C8 heavier and less portable to set up and use.

After a while I felt that rather than observing the night sky I was spending my time observing the guide star, and so no longer felt a connection with the universe. In addition it felt more like work, so I did not look forward to setting the telescope up.

In any hobby there is a possibility of burnout when it is no longer fun anymore. Over the years I have known amateur astronomers who were very active in astronomy for a number of years who left the hobby for this reason. For me the answer was to get back to basics. This meant selling the C8 and all of the astrophotography accessories.

This was also around the time that AP began to offer their APO refractors for sale. I ordered a 4" f/6 from them and mounted it on a light weight alt-AZ mount. From first light I was impressed by the portability of the telescope and the high contrast the telescope provided. This made it much easier for me to set the telescope and I observed more often.

Since then I have used APO refractors from other manufacturers as well, and I often mount them on Refractor Homemade Dobsonian-Style Mounts.


4) An observing report of the Springtime Sky was added on April 22, 2015

I have not had much luck with the weather for observing for a long while, so when we had some clear skies move in briefly recently I decided to go outside to observe with the unaided eye.

It was a clear and cool evening, and one of the first things I noticed was Venus in the western sky. It had a magnitude of -4.1, and was in the constellation of Taurus.

Jupiter was in the constellation of Cancer and had an altitude of over 60 degrees. It had a magnitude of -2.2.

The constellation of Orion was low in the western sky and was followed by Taurus.

In the eastern sky the constellation of Bootes was well up and Ursa Major was overhead. The tail of Ursa Major arced over toward Arcturus.

In the western sky the constellations of fall and winter were setting while in the eastern sky the constellations of spring and summer were rising.

It was nice to be outside again under the clear night sky.


5) An observing report of the Jupiter and Venus Conjunction, March 5, 1988, was added on May 6, 2015

I went out to observe the Jupiter and Venus conjunction in a large open field behind the house. It was a clear and cold night and the snow on the ground reflected the light pollution from a nearby town into the sky.

The view of the conjunction with the unaided eye of Venus with a magnitude of -4.2 and Jupiter of magnitude -2.1 was striking as they were only about 2 degrees apart in the western sky. Venus had a diameter of 18.05"while Jupiter had an equatorial diameter of 34.93".

I used the Olympus OM1 camera with a Tamron 24 mm lens and ASA 400 speed film to photograph the conjunction. In above the photograph Venus is on the upper right while Jupiter is on the lower left.

I brought the AP 4" F/6 out to observe them as well. Though the telescope Venus showed dusky markings along the terminator, while Jupiter showed the North and South Equatorial belts that were brown in color. In addition the four Galilean moons were visible, and a fainter star off to one side of Jupiter formed a "Fifth" moon.

After observing Venus and Jupiter though the AP 4"f/6 I observed some stars and deep-sky objects. This included a nice double start in Aries, below the star Hamal. It is a matched pair of white stars both magnitude 4.8.

M42 showed nice detail in the AP 4"f/6. Also the Hyades Star Cluster fit in the field of the telescope. The same held true for the stars in Orion's Belt.

It was an interesting and very memorable observing session.


6) An observing Report of the early morning sky was added on May 16th, 2015.

I woke up early recently as dawn was breaking and looking outside saw the sky was clear so I decided to get an observing session with the unaided eye.

It was a cool morning as I stepped outside and the Moon, just past the full, was bright in the southern sky. Saturn was visible near the Moon.

In the northern sky Ursa Major was rising, and its tail arced over towards Arcturus. The summer triangle was overhead.

While observing I noted that the number of owls were decreasing while the number of birds out during the day were increasing.

It was the start of another day on a small blue planet we call home.


7) An observing report of of Jupiter, Venus, and the spingtime sky was added on the July 7th, 2015

I stepped outside recently to observe the springtime sky with the unaided eye.

Venus was in the western sky in the constellation of Taurus with a magnitude -4.1.

Jupiter was in the constellation of Cancer and had an altitude of over 60 degrees. It had a magnitude of -2.1

Orion was low in the western sky followed by Taurus.

In the eastern sky the constellation of Bootes was well up and as was Ursa Major and the tail arced over to Arcturus.

In the western sky the constellations of fall and winter were setting while in the eastern sky the constellations of spring and summer were rising.

It was nice to be outside again under a starry sky.


8) An observing Report of Saturn and Antares using the unaided eye was added on August 3, 2015.

I spent some time recently observing Saturn and Antares with the unaided eye. This year they are near each other in the southern sky in the constellation of Scorpius. Antares is lower in the sky than Saturn.

The pale pastel yellow color of Saturn contrasts nicely with the red orange color of Antares.

The word Antares means "The Rival as it of Mars" as its color is similar to the color of Mars.

Turning to the northern sky I noted that Ursa Major was well up, and its tail arced over to Arcturus, and then over to Spica.

The constellation of Cygnus was overhead, with Vega, Altair, and Cassiopeia was rising in the NW sky.


9) An observing report of Venus and the fall and winter constellations using the unaided eye was added on September 5th, 2015.

I woke up early recently before dawn and noted it was clear so stepped outside into the cool air to observe.

Venus was low in the eastern sky and with a magnitude of -4.3 was quite bright.

Looking around I noted a number of fall and winter constellations visible including Orion, The Pleiades Star Cluster, Gemini, Taurus, as well as Ursa Major and Ursa Miner.

I noted also that there were not as many birds around as there usually are during the my early observations so perhaps they have started to migrate south.


10) An Observing Report of the Total Eclipse of the Harvest Moon, September 27, 2015 was updated on January 18th, 2016. 2015.

It was a partly cloudy sky as I was setting up my TMB 105f/6.2 mm telescope to observe the eclipse.

I began observing the penumbra stage of the eclipse around 8:40 PM.

I tried a number of different 2 wide-angle eyepieces to determine which one showed good detail, comfortable eye relief, and widest field of view (WFOV).

This included a Meade 56mm Super Plossl that I purchased in 1988, and a TMB 40mm and TMB 30mm eyepieces that I purchased in 2006.

The Meade 56mm Super Plossl gave the widest WFOV and had the longest eye relief.

In comparing the Meade with the TMBs it was clear that the Meade did not show as much detail and had less contrast than the TMBs.

However this was not really a surprise as Meade 56mm was purchased in 1988 and optical design manufacturing has changed significantly since then.

During the partial phases I switched from the Meade 56mm to the 40mm TMB and then the 30mm TMB and there was a noticeable increase in the amount of the detail visible on the Moon.

In addition the shadow was further across the Moon, including Palus Somni, which is one of my favorate areas to observe.

By 9:52 PM faint stars start to appear as the eclipse as nears totality.

By 9:59 PM most of the Moon has an orange color, except along the portion of the Moon that is not in eclipse.

During totality the orange color is very noticeable with the unaided eye. Also the color of the umbra was orange-red at the top.

After totality ended I spent some time observing the Moon with the unaided eye. I recalled the first two total eclipses that I observed in the 1960s. I did not own any astronomy equipment back then, but then, like today, I always enjoy observing them.

In 1982 I observed two Total Lunar Eclipses, and they are probably the most memorable of all for me as discussed below:


7) July 6, 1982 and December 30, 1982 Total Lunar Eclipses

July 6, 1982 Lunar Total Eclipse. During the eclipse the Moon was off to the upper left of the constellation of Sagittarius with the Milky Way. Deep sky objects visible include M8, M17, and M16. Taken with an Olympus OM-1 camera with Tokina 24mm lens at f/4 and Ektachrome 400 slide film for a 12 minute hand guided exposure on my C8.

We were fortunate in 1982 to have two total lunar eclipses visible from North America, one on July 6th, and the second one on December 30th. They turned out to be completely different eclipses.

Totality for the July 6th eclipse was unusually long at 107 minutes, and occurred near local midnight. I got together with some local astronomy guys near a bay to observe and photograph the eclipse reflected in the water. It was a warm and humid night, and unfortunately I forgot two important items: the AD/DC converter so I could run the drive on my C8 and my bug repellent. While I was able to borrow some bug repellent I was limited to observing the eclipse and trying to hand guide piggyback exposures of the eclipsed Moon. One of the better photographs is shown above.

Even without the drive it was a neat eclipse to observe. At totality the Moon had a deep rich red color to it, and it was interesting to see the Milky Way become visible during totality.

The December 30th total lunar eclipse was shorter in duration and occured after midnight so it was lower in the sky. This time I made sure that I had my AD/DC converter with me so that I could photograph it. Also I brought my heavy winter cloths as it was quite cold. I was joined by the same friend whom I observed the Venus occultation by the Moon with on December 26, 1978.

The eclipse seemed to progress normally through the partial phases. However as totality began the Moon, instead turning red in color, turned quite dark, and it became virtually invisible to the unaided eye and through the telescope both to myself and my friend. We learned later this was caused by a volcanic eruption from El Chichon in Mexico that put a lot of dust in the Earth's atmosphere.

It was one of the most unusual and unexpected observations I ever had.



11) An Observing Report of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Regulus, October 9, 2015

I woke up early to observe the crescent Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Regulus in the eastern sky with the unaided eye.

While there were some clouds around and some of the objects were lower in the sky than others I was able to see some detail.

For example, Jupiter and Mars were within three degrees of each other. Mars had a pronounced red-orange to it, and had a magnitude of 1.8.

Jupiter had a magnitude of -1.7.

The crescent Moon was about 4 degrees from Mars.

Regulus was about degrees from Venus.

Venus had a magnitude of -4.5.

While I would have preferred better observing conditions and the objects higher in the sky it was still nice to be outside observing again.


12) An Observing Report of Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, October 28, 2015

I stepped outside into a chilly morning to observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus with the with the unaided eye.

Jupiter and Venus were about 2 degrees from each other while Mars and Venus were around two and a half degrees of each other.

Jupiter had a magnitude of -1.8.

Venus had a magnitude of -4.4.

Mars had a pronounced red-orange to it and had a magnitude of 1.7.

This is a good time to Observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus as they well up in the morning sky. For example Jupiter has an altitude of 45 degrees, Venus of 42 degrees, and Mars 45 degrees.

Over the past weeks it has been fun to watch as the Moon, planets, and bright stars change position before dawn, even if I did not always get a chance to record them in my log books or upload the my web page.


13) An Observing Report of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, November 8, 2015

I stepped outside into a chilly morning to observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus with the with the unaided eye.

Jupiter and Venus were about 2 degrees from each other while Mars and Venus were around two and a half degrees of each other.

Jupiter had a magnitude of -1.8.

Venus had a magnitude of -4.4.

Mars had a pronounced red-orange to it and had a magnitude of 1.7.

This is a good time to Observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus as they well up in the morning sky. For example Jupiter has an altitude of 45 degrees, Venus of 42 degrees, and Mars 45 degrees.

Over the past months it has been fun to watch as the Moon, planets, and bright stars change position before dawn, even if I did not always get a chance to record them in my log books or upload the my web page.


14) An Observing Report of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, November 8, 2015

I stepped outside into a chilly morning to observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus with the with the unaided eye.

Jupiter and Venus were about 2 degrees from each other while Mars and Venus were around two and a half degrees of each other.

Jupiter had a magnitude of -1.8.

Venus had a magnitude of -4.4.

Mars had a pronounced red-orange to it and had a magnitude of 1.7.

This is a good time to Observe Jupiter, Mars, and Venus as they well up in the morning sky. For example Jupiter has an altitude of 45 degrees, Venus of 42 degrees, and Mars 45 degrees.

Over the past months it has been fun to watch as the Moon, planets, and bright stars change position before dawn, even if I did not always get a chance to record them in my log books or upload the my web page.

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