Nothing like sharing first light with a new beautiful scope with cosmic adventurers young and old at a local star party. Last night at the Clark Planetarium in Portsmouth, OH, 120 folks attended planetarium shows and viewed the cosmos through a variety of scopes on the lawns of Shawnee State University.
Clouds were intermittent, but we did sneak in views of Venus and Saturn as well as a sunspot before the Sun set in the west. There is nothing like viewing Saturn through a telescope in real time. Most cannot believe they are actually seeing the rings as clearly as they are and then they begin to ask about the moons lining up along the edge of the ring pattern.
There were some common questions from last night that I didn't have answers to but now I do:
- What are we seeing? Most of the time this was in regards to sunspot #1084. You can view the latest solar images from this website at NASA.
- What is a sunspot? Here is further explanation over what I was giving at the scope last night.
- Last night we viewed Saturn and the rings are nearly edge on to us. So what is the cycle of the change in Saturn's rings? It is about a six year pattern where the rings open and close to our viewing angle. For a great presentation of this please see this link and image by Alan Friedman.
- What is that to the side of Saturn? That was probably the Saturn moon Rhea.
- If there is no rock material on the gas giants, why are they still globes? Even though they are made up of gas, there is still a huge amount of mass and thus a huge amount of gravity. Jupiter has as much mass as the entire solar system combined minus the Sun. For more information please see this link.
This night was first light for the Astro-Physics 130EDF and it certainly delivered. Wonderful contrasty views of Saturn were had in between clouds with the 3-6mm Televue eyepiece. I can't wait to put a camera on the eyepiece end of the scope and capture some great views of our cosmos. My first target is M16, the Eagle Nebula.
Special thanks to Arthur Bogard for his hard work on putting the star party together and I look forward to helping with the next one in September. There are three things that I believe everyone must see at least once:
- Milky Way from a dark sky site.
I hope you have the blessing of seeing these wonderful celestial sites in your lifetime.