Friday, February 6, 2009

A Crescent Venus, Saturn and Titan, and Orion's Nebula

Tonight I took my 4-1/2'" Celestron telescope out to the end of our street to look at the nearly full moon. I found my viewing scope was out of whack and it made finding even the moon a challenge. Then, once I managed to find the moon, it was too bright to see many details of the craters. So I turned the scope to the west to look at Venus. This beautiful planet is the third brightest object in the sky. Last night I had tried to photograph it with my spotting scope, to no avail. What a nice surprise I got when I looked at Venus through the telescope and saw it was in the crescent phase! If it had been a "full Venus" it would have been very bright. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a picture of it because I don't have a telescope adapter for my camera (yet!).

At 10:15 p.m. I took the telescope back out on the road (fortunately, we live on a dead end street) to try and find Saturn. It was just high enough to see it pretty well. The street light behind my shoulder made looking through the telescope even more challenging, as if an "out of whack" viewing scope wasn't bad enough! If I cupped my fingers around the eyepiece I could cut out most of the glaring light. The rings of Saturn are seen edge-on now, so they were very thin. Even though my telescope is not particularly powerful, I was able to see (what I assume was) Titan, Saturn's largest moon. It looked like a tiny pinpoint of light.

Next I found the constellation Orion and its nebula in the "hunter's sword". It looks like a fuzzy cloud with 3 stars inside. Fortunately, the bitter cold weather gave way to a bit warmer temperatures today, so it wasn't too bad outside tonight. Wintertime is a great time to go star gazing, the skies are much clearer and the stars can be seen earlier in the evening.

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