Jeremy's almost but not quite entirely moribund blog

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Astronomy in the morning

Astronomy in the morning
Originally uploaded by jpstanley.
I had a good observation session this morning.

Went out about 5:30 AM. The summer stars were up. I flipped through my copy of Turn Left At Orion and looked for targets. First up was M13, the star cluster in Hercules. My first view of this cluster was in a 25" Obsession, and it knocked my socks off. In my 4.5" Newt, it's a tiny fuzzy blob. I'm sure the bright gibbous Moon didn't help.

Next, I pointed at Alberio, the colorful optical double in Cygnus. Very pretty.

Flipping through my book, I found my next target--Epsilon Lyrae, commonly known as the "Double Double". I remember having difficulty resolving this last year, but this morning, I had no problem at all--I saw four cleanly separated, perfectly circular stars with textbook Airy discs. I guess I did a decent job collimating it the other day despite my lack of a fancy laser thingy. I was so impressed with the Starblast's performance that I almost felt bad about ordering that apochromatic refractor the other day. Almost. (It's set to arrive on Tuesday, hopefully soon enough I can catch M42 and M45 before they're gone for the season. Wish me clear skies.)

Anyhow, I flipped through the book looking for my next target, skipping over any marked "dark skies" since, although the skies are seldom dark in my backyard, right now they were definitely not dark by any stretch since I could read the book without my flashlight. I come upon another double star in Cygnus, so I look in the book to see where it is relative to Deneb and Sadr, then I look through my finder and... whoops. Where's Deneb? The sky had gotten bright enough that I couldn't see any stars at all with the naked eye. But I looked back through the eyepiece, cranked the R.A. knob, and there was the Double Double. I tracked it for awhile, and then decided I should get in a look at Jupiter before it got too bright for me to find it. Jupiter and its moons looked quite nice against a light blue background.

My final stop was the Moon, and considering how good Epsilon Lyrae looked, I thought I should try for a picture. That's what you see here.