A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events


with 5 comments

I had a really fun astronomy session yesterday, thanks to a monstorous 10 inch Newtonian reflector made by Celestron.

I had joined the assembly of curious astronomy enthusiasts sometime after sunset, when there was still some significant light pollution in the sky. Then, while trying to figure out the ecliptic by looking at Venus, Saturn and the Moon, I was able to see something unusual. It was a small, high speed light source which was visible as it passed the moon. After some initial confusion, we soon realised that it was an artifical communication satellite, and we had seen an Iridium flare.

Then, there was a lecture on the constellations, and some famous “landmarks” in the sky. Even now, I don’t understand how people claim Leo looks like a lion, by any strech of imagination. However much I try and imagine, it ends up looking suspiciously like a mouse. Anyway, after the lecturer pointed out some more constellations which I couldn’t visualize, it was finally time to play with the telescope.

The first object we looked at was Venus, which was in half phase. The planet was shimmering in greyish white and the surface was absolutely featureless, although I could make out the crescent shape. It was also scintilatting a lot, which must have been to the haze in the atmosphere.

After that, was the real treat of the night, when we pointed the telescope at Saturn. Wow! It was absolutely magnificent! It’s like a precious stone painted in a canvas of black. The rings are entirely visible and wonderful in color. You can even see the bands on the “surface” of the gas giant. And right next to Saturn is the dot that’s Cassini. Viewing Saturn through the telescope was the highlight of the night.

Next on the list was a very bright Jupiter. We had to wait a bit for the planet to rise from the horizon, but boy was it worth it! The view through the telescope was fantastic. Jupiter is visible as a giant squashed circular disc, and surrounding are 4 satellites (Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede). Although the red spot was on the other side of the planet, the reddish cloud belts were clear to see.

Having completed this mini tour of the planets, we tried to see whatever deep sky objects that were visible over the city light. With the help of the more experienced enthusiasts in our group, we were able to focus on the M13 globular cluster. I found this a slight dissapointment, becuase I couldn’t make out much except an extremely fuzzy ball that was barely visible.

We also had a peek at the Beehive cluster (M44) and the optical binaries Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper (Ursa Major)

Finally, (on my insistence :p), we were able to point the telescope at the moon. I was dazzled by the brightness of the moon. We could see various craters near the terminator, and could even make out individual craters.

All in all, that was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had.

Written by parseval

May 27, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Posted in astronomy, personal

5 Responses

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  1. LOL, Leo doesn’t look like _anything_ to me 🙂

    Satellite flares, interesting!

    Mohan K.V

    May 28, 2007 at 2:08 am

  2. Well-typed.
    My naked eye too has twice spotted such I.F.0’s (Identified F.O’s) in the night sky, but I had automatically taken them to be low-flying espionage satellites. He-he.
    I never connect the dots to figure out (pun, as always, intended) shapes of constellations. [Perhaps that’s the way others look at them too.] Seek the impression you get when you gaze at a constel. That way, in Leo you can feel a lion in lazy repose, looking straight ahead. At least that’s how I see it.
    I haven’t telescoped at Venus, but I guess it was only an apparence that its surface was ‘absolutely featureless’. Its thick ubiquitous ocean of carbon-dioxide must have given you that impression.
    Well, did you know that many of Jupe’s satellites, like the ones you mentioned, are named after Greek mythological characters?
    {A bit of semantics, amigo… ||surrounding it are it’s 4 satellites||
    I’m sure you meant to write ‘surrounding it are four of its satellites’}
    You must be knowing this: Astronomer is a synogram of Moon-starer. 😉
    Your post motivates me to join in the next sky-goggling session of the club. Thanks 🙂


    May 28, 2007 at 11:36 am

  3. Thank you, in passing, for laying a link to my blog in yours. I am positively flattered.
    It would be convenient if you could install a chatbox/ shoutbox in your blogpage.


    May 28, 2007 at 11:45 am

  4. Ack. I’ve edited that glaring mistake.

    Now that I know you’re here, I’ve got to spend countless hours combing through the text with a spell checker 😉

    Moon-starer. Cool, I didn’t know that.

    I’ll look into installing the box.


    May 28, 2007 at 1:54 pm

  5. Please mail your mailing address at the mailing address chinnumon@gmail.com, and when you are free, feel free to visit the free website http://chinnumongoestomalluland.blogspot.com.


    June 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm

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