9:00 – 11:00pm
I remember reading that it’s common for people to really become hooked on astronomy when they first view Saturn through a telescope. Tonight’s alignment of Saturn, Mars and Regulus along with its close proximity to the Moon raised my hopes and encouraged me to take a close look. Time was short, since our view to the west is limited by buildings and mountains, and the planets were only visible for a short time after sunset (when the sky is still somewhat bright). At first all I could see was the Moon, but as the sky grew darker I thought I spotted two points of light to the Moon’s right.
At this point, Joe called from Maine. While Rich spoke with him, I grabbed the binoculars and could easily see what I assumed to be Saturn, Mars, and Regulus—though no detail was present. I could just determine that Saturn was larger than Mars. I sat down at the scope and began to pan around. A bright spot flew by as I moved the scope too quickly. Moving it back slowly brought Saturn into view. I almost shrieked! I could see the rings and the gap between them and the planet. Even though Rich was still on the phone, I sat him down in the chair and had him look. Moose-high-five! as he explained to Joe that I had just found Saturn. Awesome! A few moments later I found Mars. It looked like a big red star; no details could be seen.
This is not our image of Saturn; we haven’t progressed to the point where we can take any astrophotos at all (though I am tempted to see what, if anything, we can produce using my Panasonic FZ50 with telephoto conversion lens). But it is very similar to what we saw when looking through our scope. There’s nothing like the feeling I had when I zeroed in on Saturn for the first time, and recognized it!
This is the view we had of Jupiter and moons around 10:00pm. At 4:00am (Monday), it was cloudy.