Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 22nd. First looks (at the night sky)

Just before sunset, I noticed Venus quite bright in the Western sky, so the dob was finally moved outside.
The (new) crescent moon was just setting, and it was initially used to align my spotter scope.
Wow! Even a thin crescent half-hidden between tree branches, and craters could STILL be distinctly seen  on that little sliver of moon!
The scope was then moved up to Venus, and once it was located in the main, this was used this to tune the spotter scope a bit further.
By now it was dark and freezing. But before carrying the stuff inside, I moved it up a just a bit further to Jupiter. As soon as Jupiter was in the spotter, I looked in the main scope and saw it! The whole big disk.   As well, four little objects nearby, all on the same side of Jupiter.
I thought at first that this must be some sort of diffraction or glare on the still-untuned telescope, but once I came indoors, and fired up my Stellarium(1) -  it was quickly determined that the objects were actually four of Jupiter's moons - Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede.
 Not bad for my initial 30 minutes playing with a telescope in the freezing cold.

(1)- A great FREE program to identify and locate stars and planets (as well as artificial satellites) in the heavens. Particularly if you live in the country, and are intrigued by that bright object you suddenly noticed in the western sky.
Got a big monitor? You'll be amazed.
Stellarium is supported by Windows, Linux and Mac.
Oh- did we mention it was free? (note that it's a 50 meg download)