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May 23, 2010 May 28, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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The Waxing Gibbous Moon in All Its Glory

Object: Moon
Site: Front Yard
Seeing: 1
Transparency: Poor
Type: Solar System Object
Size: 32′
Magnitude: -11.96
Constellation: Corvus
Magnification: 10x
FOV: 4.8 Degrees
Observing Time: 9:50 pm – 10.08 pm

Notes: Moon in Waxing Gibbous Phase. This weekend is Victoria Day Weekend, hoping to see a fireworks show too (but alas, none show up even though I hear plenty of popping). The edge of Mare Imbrium was seen in decent definition. A group of smaller craters near the bottom of the terminator were also visible. No bright stars visible near the moon through binoculars tonight. As for the atmospheric conditions, seeing is horrible and the transparency leaves something to be desired, but extremely bright and big objects like the moon are seldom affected.  Atmospheric turbulences have a much greater effect on stars and deep-sky objects, like galaxies.  We see the moon has phases, because of its motion around the Earth. An interesting fact is that the light reflected off from the moon will always be coming from the sun; by doing a quick triangulation between the sun, earth, and the moon, it is easy to get an ethereal feeling of the geometry of these three important bodies in space.  Tonight, the moon is halfway between  Corvus and Virgo, two adjacent constellations in the celestial sphere.

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April 13, 2010 April 30, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Photorealistic Image in Stellarium

Object: Saturn

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: Better than Average

Transparency: 4 (out of 5 (best))

Type: Solar System Object

Size: 45″

Magnitude: 1.00

Constellation: Virgo

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 degrees

Observing Time: 9:45 pm – 9:55 pm

Notes: Saturn, b VIR and Zavijava making a distinctive right triangle.  At first glance I mistook Saturn for a bright star! This trio was seen under the heels of Leo the Lion.  Saturn is in the constellation Virgo now, and it was special to see it in a unique geometric formation as seen here (Pythagoras would have been pleased =D). Saturn doesn’t reveal much in the way of planetary features in binoculars.  In fact, it is easy to mistake it for a star, even through binoculars– like I did. To differentiate, the creamy yellowish “star” will not twinkle, because of a light “disk” coming at your eyes. A pinpoint source of light is prone to atmospheric turbulences, thus distorting its path, and causing light from real stars to twinkle.  To see the glorious rings, and enjoy the spectacle, a telescope is needed.  A littering of fainter stars dot the background.  Virgo is the only female form in the Zodiac, and has been associated in the past as the “Wheat Goddess” [http://bit.ly/alrwMd].  Primarily composed of 12 bright stars (of course, fainter ones permeate the whole constellation), Virgo is found behind Leo, and below Bootes, another constellation.  One of the brightest stars in Virgo is called Spica.  It is easy to find, and serves as a distinctive star of spring.  To find it, first find the Big Dipper.  Tracing along its curved handle, follow the curve, extrapolating until you hit a bright reddish star.  This is Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes. Now, look down from Arcturus, and you should see another bright, yellowish star; Spica.  To help you remember, “Arc to Arcturus, and Speed on to Spica”.  This useful phrase isn’t my invention, rather it has been passed along between budding amateur astronomers for many years.

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