It was another day where the weather at the start of the day was very different from the weather by the time the star gazing night event began. In the morning, it was showering, but by mid-afternoon, the clouds were disappearing. We had a few clouds at the start that partially blocked the sky, but by dark, the viewing was actually pretty good. Eight amateur astronomers and 22 people came to the event.
For me the night was especially great – I acquired a new telescope! One of the astronomers had a reflector that he owned but didn’t use since he had larger scopes to use, I’ll call it the ‘Meade’ scope, here. So, I bought it, to try out a respectable entry-level scope and from time to time report what I see with it. I’ll compare this scope with another scope that Moose Hill has in a later blog.
We started the night as the International Space Station flew almost overhead. Several of us also saw a ‘shooting star’ or two – possibly from the Delta Aquarids.
That night, Mars and Saturn were out forming a bright triangle with Antares, the bright orange star that forms the heart of the constellation, Scorpius. It’s hard to see a lot of detail on Mars with the typical instruments available. The Meade scope showed the disk, and I believe I saw a white polar cap. The Meade scope defined Saturn and its rings easily, and I could see darker portions closer to the disk that make it look like Saturn had handles. Larger scopes showed more details such as the ring divisions, as well as perhaps three of its moons that were just too small for the Meade scope. Throughout August, these planets and Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury at the western horizon will be forming tight formations. Check out this website, Sky and Telescope for more information,
I tried a few other common sights. I couldn’t find the ring nebula in Lyra, which looks like a smoke ring in the larger telescopes – I will try again with charts this time. I did manage to see the pair of stars in B Cygnus, “Aricebo” a favorite because one is blue and one is orange. I found M1, the globular cluster in Hercules, which looked like a lumpy cloud compared to the image in larger telescopes that are able to resolve individual stars.
Toward the end of the evening, I was able to show someone the main constellations. She knew a few and some of the stories behind them. I was able to add a few more constellations and stories. So many sites have information about constellations. Constellations are as much about science as they are about our culture and imagination. So, I recommend studying both. Windows to the Universe is a great site to get you started.
The next Star Gazing Night is tonight, August 11 – 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.