Star Gazing – April 19: Moon, Jupiter, and Clusters

Finally, after four months of canceled star nights due to cloudy conditions (hard to see those stars when the clouds are in the way), Star Gazing was a ‘Go’ at Moose Hill.  About 35 people showed up to gaze into the four telescopes and one pair of large binoculars turned to the heavens.FamilyScope_20160419

We started when it was still twilight. Starnight_ScopeMoonThe nearly full moon was the main object to see, at first.

While we waited for darkness, we looked for the first stars to appear. Jupiter, the only planet visible, was one of the first objects to appear, and it turned out to be the feature of the night.

Jupiter is a mighty gaseous planet that has many moons orbiting it.  One of them, Callisto, due to our viewpoint of Jupiter and its system, crossed in front of Jupiter’s disk.  The moon was a tiny, pinprick ‘shadow’ against a bright, striped disk, so it was difficult to see and lead to many discussions of “did I actually see it?”

Other objects were attempted in the final hour of the event. Two objects viewed with multiple instruments were open clusters, M36 and M37, in the constellation Auriga (The Chariot), which is near the constellation, Taurus. These pictures from the NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory) gallery were better than anything we were able to capture.





And finally to clarify a conversation I overheard during the evening. There was discussion about the position and movements of the moon relative to Jupiter over the few nights before April 19.  There are actually two motions involved here.  The first is the movement from east to west with the constellations which is in the same direction the sun crosses the sky during the day. This is due to the EARTH’s rotation. The second is a slow motion eastward.  The best way to see this is to go out on successive nights at the same time and note where the moon is.  This is due to the MOON’s orbit around the earth.  So, the moon was close to Jupiter on April 18. To note, Jupiter also moves in the sky, but it changes much more slowly – you would have to be more patient.

The next Star Gazing Night is May 15 – hope to see you there!

Thank you to Craig Austin for this Star Gazing post and these pictures. Craig is often present during Moose Hill’s Star Gazing Nights, along with a few members of the Astronomical Society of Southern New England, and other local amateur astronomers. We are grateful for those who share their scopes and knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning more and seeing the night sky from our open field.

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