[Nighttime] Amateur Astronomy/Stargazing [Comfy] (15)

1 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-06-20 22:51 ID:1EgG1P3i

There are few solitary late night hobbies more accessible and humbling than watching the heavens. The beginner needs nothing more than clear weather and a notebook, while there are a plethora of gadgets and tools for the enthusiast. The newbie can take his time to learn the constellations and positions of the stars with only a free printed map and his hand to take accurate measurements. The veteran can hunt for faint clusters and galaxies.

Tonight’s targets:
Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter
The Big Dipper

Tonight’s equipment:
NightWatch by Terence Dickinson
Laptop running a word processor, browser, and Stellarium
Smart device running Sky Walk 2 (emergency only!)

At 10:00 pm, the Moon will be 6 degrees above the horizon in the southeast. Saturn will be 20 degrees clockwise from the moon at 20 degrees above the horizon. Mars will be 20 degrees clockwise from Saturn and 25 degrees above the horizon. Spica will be 30 degrees clockwise from Mars and 35 degrees above the horizon.

The Big Dipper should be obviously apparent in the Northwest at 70 degrees above the horizon, with the handle pointed upwards and the cup towards the ground. The two stars that make up the end of the cup farthest from the handle point towards Polaris, which is due north and 40 degrees above the horizon. Going away from the cup, the handle of the Big Dipper can show the location of Arcturus by logically continuing the arc of the handle to the next bright star (follow the arc to Arcturus). Alternatively, Arcturus can be located by looking 30 degrees above Spica.

Extra credit:
Use a lunar map to identify two features on the Moon
Use the constellations of the target stars to determine the limiting magnitude of naked eye amateur astronomy in a metropolitan area

Helpful links:

2 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-06-21 14:36 ID:CV+DPDJH

The light pollution is ridiculous. Sorry I can't join you, OP.

3 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-06-21 22:25 ID:1EgG1P3i


I understand completely. My last apartment was in downtown Detroit and on clear nights it took effort to make out more than 4 of the stars in the Big Dipper. My situation improved when I bought some midrange binoculars. I could point them at any dark spot and the lenses would be full of stars. The open star cluster called the Pleiades looked magnificent through those binoculars; all seven prominent stars resolved sharply and a handful of the dimmer stars were apparent as well.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the planets should be visible to the unaided eye no matter where you live. Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will all be in the sky tonight so you should consider trying them.

As for me, last night was kind of a bust. I was able to see Mars by 10:15 but everything else was occluded. Hoping for better skies tonight.

4 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-06-22 21:51 ID:1EgG1P3i

10:15 P.M.

No cloud cover, 70 Fahrenheit, 44% humidity

Objects observed:
Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Antares, Spica

All three planets were readily visible, with Saturn and Mars to the south and Jupiter in the west. Mars exhibited it's trademark red hue. Spica was roughly halfway between Mars and Jupiter. Taken together, Spica and the planets were separated enough to beautifully illustrate the ecliptic.

Though Antares was not originally a planned target, it was easily identified due to it's proximity to Saturn (a mere 5 degrees under Saturn on this observing session). Both Spica and Antares were unusually dim; a combination of both light pollution and poor seeing conditions. Further observation will be necessary to determine the naked eye limiting magnitude at this site when the air is calm and dry.

Spica and Antares are both magnitude 1 objects, so if further experimentation doesn't yield better results then binoculars will be necessary in the future. Tonight will be cloudy and perhaps rainy, but clear skies are expected both Friday and Saturday.

5 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-06-24 03:10 ID:1EgG1P3i

10:15 P.M.

No cloud cover, 70 Fahrenheit, 43% humidity

cleardarksky.com forecast:
Transparency 4/5, seeing 2/5

Objects observed:
Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Antares/Scorpius, Spica, Arcturus, Big Dipper

The sky tonight was considerably better, with all three stars of the head of Scorpius visible between Saturn and Mars. Pi Scorpius was only able to be seen using averted vision, suggesting a limiting magnitude of 2.9.

6 of the stars in the Big Dipper were visible. The 7th, Megrez, is magnitude 3.3. No attempt to find it was made with averted vision this evening, so it might have been possible.

6 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-07-04 03:55 ID:1EgG1P3i

There was a field trip on the Friday before last to a local observatory. We briefly observed Saturn through a refractor, but it was awfully hurried due to the crowd so I didn't get an especially good look or get to ask any questions about the equipment. Saturn's rings will be approaching maximum tilt for the next year, so they were declined by what I would estimate is 40 degrees. The seeing was total garbage: Saturn wavered and shimmered in the atmosphere, blurring the image substantially. The magnification was somewhere north of 200x

Last week featured several clear nights, but sessions were short and limited to confirming the observations of the week prior. Megrez has still not been spotted, and is likely too dim to compete with nearby light pollution.

10:30 PM

No cloud cover, 70 Fahrenheit, 51% humidity

cleardarksky.com forecast:
Transparency 4/5, seeing 3/5

10x50 binoculars

Objects observed:
Saturn, Jupiter, Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex

Saturn was chosen as tonight's target to determine the local limiting magnitude for binocular viewing. Through binoculars, Saturn was part of a bolt shaped asterism with stars ranging from 4th magnitude through 8th. The faintest visible star was around 6th magnitude. Cursory checks of Antares, Mars, Spica, and Jupiter suggest that the binoculars were limited to brighter than 5th magnitude.

Jupiter's moon Ganymede is a fair distance away, so an attempt was made to split the two. Despite delicate focus adjustments, the object resulted in a blurry, rainbowed blob. Jupiter appeared bright and pale in the binoculars, with Ganymede creating a slightly oblong shape.

After testing the stars for limiting magnitude near Antares, the Rho Ophiuchi nebula was observed. Conditions and equipment showed a slightly blurred "fuzzy" star.

7 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-09-08 05:38 ID:mTlWLyoG

Give us an update OP

8 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-09-16 15:12 ID:hJvr4tUq


Sorry, friend. I haven't stopped observing but I have been very lazy about keeping logs.

With binoculars I was able to split some easy doubles, make out some Galilean satellites and Titan near the oblong blob of Saturn, but found the weight of my rugged 10x50s cumbersome without a tripod.

Researching tripods and mounts brought me instead to purchase an Astronomers Without Borders OneSky reflector telescope. The light gathering power is more than 4x what my binoculars are capable of, and the included kellner eye pieces granted me either 25x or 65x magnification.

By the time I received the scope Jupiter was gone from the evening sky. Mars needs more magnification than 65x to begin seeing surface details, but Saturn's rings are distinct at even 25x and banding of the planet's clouds is apparent at 65x. I've ordered a TMB clone from China that should excel at planetary observation, though whether the 200x magnification will cooperate with the scope's optics and local seeing conditions is yet to be seen.

At this time of year, the brightest cluster in Hercules has proven elusive from my light polluted neighborhood. This is likely more due to my lack of skill, but it's possible that the sky is just too washed out.

On Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I drove an hour and a half out of the city to observe from a dark sky sight, where the milky way was had decent structure. Armed with the book Turn Left at Orion I was able to locate and observe the aforementioned Hercules cluster.

It just so happened that a gentleman with an 11" Celestron SCT on a goto mount was observing that night, and after some small discussions we primarily used his scope to observe clusters, nebulae and galaxies. His high end eyepieces rendered gorgeous views, though at $700 they're more than 3x what I paid for my tabletop dobsonian.

Since I can't find much in my light polluted skies at home, I've taken to splitting double star systems. My three favorites for late summer/early autumn are Mizar (my girlfriend's eyes are good enough to see both stars with her unaided eye!), Albireo, and epsilon Lyrae.

Mizar is nice because, as the arch star in the big dipper's handle, it's easy for anyone to find. Albireo has a star that's whitish blue near a red giant, and the contrast creates a special beauty while showcasing some simple variety in stars. Epsilon Lyrae is also called the "double-double" as it's two binary systems in the same field of view.

In the future, I will try to use this thread to encourage proper log keeping

9 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-09-22 01:06 ID:1EgG1P3i

8:45 PM

Light clouds, 75 Fahrenheit, 70% humidity

cleardarksky.com forecast:
Transparency 2/5, seeing 3/5

Naked eye

Objects observed:
Saturn, Mars, Antares, Rasalhague, Rasalgethi, Vega

Since visiting the dark sky site, the Red Dot Finder has been inoperable so for now the telescope is temporarily retired. I hope to fix this within the next week as a "planetary eyepiece" will be acquired, increasing my maximum magnification to 200x. Tonight I opted to take a brieft survey of the sky to assess what's possible under local light pollution levels.

The limiting naked eye visual magnitude tonight was approximately 3.5. This was evidenced by a strained but easy observation of Rasalgethi. If cleardarksky is to be trusted, the winter months should be much more forgiving for amateur stargazers.

Expect updates on the quality of the planetary eyepiece soon.

10 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-09-26 12:47 ID:hJvr4tUq

I received the planetary eyepiece and an "upgraded" finder this weekend. Briefly took the new stuff out and found that I'm not a tremendous fan of the Celestron Starpointer Pro. Using circles instead of a dot allows me to see the target, but head placement means the view varies. I'm on the fence about returning it and going back to a red dot finder.

The seeing wasn't very good, and Mars is too far away, but I do appreciate the 3 fold magnification of the new eyepiece. It's very rugged so I had to increase the altitude tension on my mount. The eye relief is also quite a bit shorter than what I expected. Looking forward to clear fall nights with an attempt to view Jupiter around October 15th.

I'm also hoping to split Sirius this winter, and hoping the planetary eyepiece will help. Sirius B is only magnitude 11, so I'll probably hafta travel to a darker sky site.

11 Name: star gazer : 2016-11-02 06:22 ID:YEhqOQJS

Astronomy would be a lot easier if you could do it from inside. Many nights it gets too cold to go out and gaze at the stars, especially during winter. That makes Percival Lowell a sad panda.

12 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-11-02 13:43 ID:hJvr4tUq

It isn't too bad if you're well prepared. I usually start by picking out 5-10 targets that'll be high enough in the sky at whatever time I plan to go out. Since I snowboard, I have enough kit in the form of wool socks, thermal underwear, and gloves that allow finer dexterity than most. Definitely doable for an hour or so

13 Post deleted.

14 Name: Anonymous Enthusiast : 2016-11-19 14:40 ID:hJvr4tUq

Checked out the super moon this past Sunday. The actual full moon was Monday, but lunar features are more pronounced when there's some shadowing. The ridges on the western limb near the terminator were majestic, though the seeing was at best 3/5.

I really need a moon filter. It was so bright in my eyepiece that light was still washed out in my observing eye even when I went back inside!

15 Name: Anonymous Hobbyist : 2021-03-28 09:00 ID:UN+Ag0CO

Where's SCORPIO?

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