|March 18, 2018 conjunction of (left to right) Moon, Venus, and Mercury over Letha House Park (west), in the Spencer, Ohio area. Clouds threatened to hide the event but cleared enough to lend mystery to the scene.|
At any rate, last night (July 8) presented a decent opportunity to set up my big refractor in the backyard and take a look at the cosmos. The sky was clear, temperature and humidity pleasant, and I had no distractions.
|The shed that must serve as my "observatory" and the big Meade (6-inch) refracting telescope. I set the scope up in the early evening and left it outdoors in preparation for nightfall.|
Unfortunately, with no permanent setup for the mount, north alignment for my telescope is usually off by a bit and last night was typical. The telescope's computerized "go-to" system was able to aim the telescope close but not directly on my targets; I needed to manually fish for each object I wanted to observe. I also wanted to do some photography experiments and a slightly out-of-alignment equatorial drive is not a good thing for imaging! I found that I could get reasonably round star images if I set the DSLR for an exposure of 20 to 30 seconds and covered the objective lens for the first five seconds after the shutter triggered in order to dampen out vibrations. I've got to see if I can use "live shooting" in place of the regular mirror/shutter combo to prevent camera vibrations!
Still, I did observe several objects and here are a few impressions:
Jupiter: By the time the scope was ready to use, the "King of Planets" was descending into neighboring trees. I had but a few minutes of almost decent viewing. I had hoped to see the shadow of moon Io on the planetary disk but could not resolve it. The best I could make out was Jupiter's most prominent cloud bands with Io floating not far from the planet's limb.
Messier 4: The globular star cluster in constellation Scorpius was, sadly, faint and somewhat indistinct in our light-polluted sky.
Saturn: Not as sharp-edged as I'd hoped, I could barely make out the Cassini Division but could discern the planetary disk in relief over the planet's ring system. I could also see some cloud bands, though not distinctly.
Mars: Mars is nearing opposition and is brilliant and red. I was easily able to observe the planet as a disk but, due to a global dust storm, couldn't make out any surface features -- well, maybe a shadowy area at the center of the disk but certainly not anything beyond that.
Messier 25: Photographic only. The open star cluster made a decent test to refine exposure and vibration-dampening techniques.
Messier 22: A bright globular that showed up, even in the viewfinder of the DSLR, it also provided a good photographic test target. The photo results were far from "stellar" (pun intended) but showed some promise.
Time passed quickly, the activity was thoroughly engrossing, and I packed it in at about 1:00 AM EDT. It was a good night.
|Messier 22, a globular star cluster. A beginner's deep-sky effort, I'm happy to have reasonably round stars and to be able to see some of the many thousands of stars present in the cluster.|