By Paul Sokolowski
- Observing Location: Broad Creek
- Date/Time: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 Gate time at 730PM
- Also Present: Lucy Albert, Steve Clark
I actually arrived around 7PM to do the “gardening. Previously, some had mentioned that they seemed to remember that in years past, we had set up a little farther forward (to the south). So, I weed whacked a new strip forward about 15 feet. To my eye, it begins to slope downward a fair amount from there, so we couldn’t have been very much further forward than this in the past. Oh well, at least we now have a somewhat larger space to spread out.
Tonight promised to be a 5+ night; all 5 visible planets plus a first quarter moon, so it was my intention to just concentrate mostly on the planets tonight.
I brought my CPC800 with me to continue my love/hate relationship with that scope. I always seem to have some problem with it. Now, mind you, I completely understand it’s likely user error. I always forget some little detail in set up that haunts me all night. (And, of course, it happened again, and I didn’t realize it until we were leaving. I didn’t properly tighten the screws that attach the scope to the mount. So, I had tracking and “go to” inaccuracies all night.)
Since we had a bunch of time till twilight, I took the opportunity to get some good looks at the moon; something that I don’t do often enough. Lots of good views of cratering and mountains at the terminator. Crisium seemed further from the edge than usual so I guess it was a high “tilt” night.
Next, Jupiter was already quite visible and so I went there. Very clear cloud bands. Four moons very visible; three off to one side in an almost equilateral triangle shape. (I went back to Jupiter several times during the night. It was interesting to see how the triangle shape changed through the night as the moons continued their revolution.)
Then, around 9, we took a break and went to the official “Cathy spot” to get both Venus and Mercury naked eye (‘cause there’s not much else to see after that). Steve had previously looked at Venus in his scope and saw it about 50% full. That makes sense because both it and Mercury are basically at their farthest elongation. We were a little too early. Mercury was playing hide and seek in the horizon atmosphere layers. Must be time to get my eyes checked again because Lucy and Steve were able to pick Mercury out at least 10 minutes before I could. OK, check off that box and move on.
By then it was dark enough to set my alignment stars to Antares and Altair. While there I took a look at M4. Very faint, probably owing to it’s closeness to the moon.
Next, I followed my new-found fascination with Stellarium names by looking at M62, which is now known as the Flickering Globular Cluster. Huh??? Well, it is a cluster.
I spent almost all of the rest of the night with Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, trying higher and higher magnifications and various color filters. (The highest I went was roughly 250X). Jupiter and Saturn were both delightful. My favorite part was Saturn’s rings at higher and higher magnification.
Mars was disappointing. Owing to the dust storm currently brewing there, I was not able to discern any surface features at all. That’s right, nothing. Just a big, red blob. If this storm doesn’t pass, next week’s much hyped opposition is going to be a bust.
Steve needed to leave a little early and started packing a little after 11. Right at that time, the temperature must have hit the dew point because it came in with a vengeance. So Lucy and I also decided to pack up too.
Because I might just be the slowest packer in the world, we didn’t finally leave the gate until around midnight.