Old friends

Not a great night last night, lots of humidity, but clear enough to drag out the scope. To look, once again, at the things I keep looking at.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 6.50.45 AM

I like Jupiter. It’s so easy to find and so rewarding. Last night was fun because three of the moons all nicely bunched up to make a harmonious little set. It felt like Jupiter was being followed by three little dogs yapping at his heels, with a fourth scurrying long behind. I’m beginning to see how the personification in ancient mythology and starlore happened. I was also distracted by a bunch of little other specs of light that I thought might be other moons. No, just random magnitude 10 stars. Too bad.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 7.09.36 AMI also saw the same black dot I saw two nights ago. Right in the middle of the planet, maybe a tiny bit south of the equator, and originally a bit to the west of the center of the disc and then turning with Jupiter to be at the exact middle when I last looked around 8pm. That was 49 hours after the last time I saw this black dot, or about 4.95 rotations of the planet, so I think it’s a real feature and not just an anomaly. It looks like a tiny little point spec to me, like a dead pixel on a monitor, very black and high contrast to the rest of the planet. Not like the subtle cloud features I see in images. It’s too close to the equator to be related to the 2009 impact site. I suppose it could have been this blackish smudge in the picture here from Stellarium, the position is about the same, but my spot seemed so much more discrete. I wish I had some way to capture what I saw. I’m a terrible sketch artist.

Could it be the great red spot? The two times I saw this thing were about 2012-12-25 03:00Z and 2012-12-27 04:00Z. This chart tells me I’m about three hours too late both nights. So no.

After Jupiter I tried to find the Andromeda Galaxy and failed. I need some proper star charts. I tried spotting it off of Pegasus / Andromeda, also using Cassiopeia as a sort of pointer guide. I managed to find Alpheratz (2.0), delta Andromeda (3.3), beta Andromeda / Mirach (2.1) and the fainter mu Andromeda (3.9). beta → mu → Andromeda Galaxy should have worked out, but I couldn’t make it out. The sky was so bright from the moon it was tough to see even the magnitude three stars.

So then back to Orion and the Nebula for another quick reward. I can find it pretty fast now. I focussed on the Trapezium this time and pleased myself by spotting a fifth star in the asterism, the 10.3 magnitude one to the north (Trapezium E, I think). I couldn’t make out the sixth brightest star (Trapezium F), the 10.2 one to the south just next to the brighter star. It’s funny, I can’t find a good image of what the Trapezium looks like to me in the scope; all the pictures have lots of light from the nebula, a big garish mess, whereas what I see is points of light with just a faint grey wisp of nebula.

I’m doing well with my new equipment. I don’t like the Barlow much; it’s a pain to put on and seems to degrade the image quality some. I’m more at ease with the 7.5mm eyepiece, 160x or about 3.3x the magnification of my 25mm eyepiece. Swapping those two is easy enough. Also tried out the blue filter on Jupiter. Didn’t really do much for me, just made everything unappealingly blue but didn’t help me see more detail in the clouds.

Now I want to buy more! A proper 7×50 finder scope would be nice, this red dot reflex thing is not terrific. And those wide angle eyepieces like Naglers sound terrific. But at $500 it’s about what I’ve spent on the rest of the gear combined, and I keep telling myself I should give it a few months before spending lots of money.