Sunday, February 08, 2009

Saturn and Gibbous Moon

Session name: 20090206.2035

Teleport TP10 in Central ParkTeleport ready for Urban sky

Location: Top of the Lawn, Central Park
Site Classification: Urban
Dark Sky Scale, Bortle: Class 8, City Sky
Seeing Scale, Antoniadi: II/III
Transparency: Poor

Weather: High cirrus clouds over entire sky, Moon carries corona across the sky; cold temps, especially with light breeze.
Moon: 11d18h waxing gibbous, sunrise terminator.
Equipment: Teleport TP10, 10" reflector
Observing Party: Peter
Passersby: ~19
Objects observed:
- Solar System - Moon; Saturn & 3 moons
- Stellar - Beta Mon; Trapezium + E & F stars; iota Ori; sigma Ori
- Deep Sky - Orion's Sword: NGC1981, M42/43; M41; M79*
[* - attempted, not observed]

This session was cold. Long underwear, sweaters, heavy coat, hat, and gloves. When the breeze picked up the cold was biting. Awkward, sluggish movements hamper any springy, adroit dexterity. My goal was to get my first real look at Saturn this year.

The pedestrian traffic was low, yet those that stopped by were fascinated with views of Saturn and three moons. The waxing, gibbous Moon was suspended high in the southwest sky. Some of the familiar dog owners, like Mitch and Marble stopped by. When TIME'S UP! arrived for their midnight park ride, Mitch assisted by describing what and where we were observing. Marbel was occupied in chasing the ball tossed down the sidewalk. Other times, some couples passed, stopped, and chatted. Thin crowds but much company and conversation during the entire session.

Everyone marveled at Saturn and Titan under magnifications 98x and 181x. Those with keen eyes spotted Iapetus and Dione. The ring system is flat and thin, crossing the planet it appears as a very thin black line. In fact, I am not certain that I saw it entirely across the disk or if it was mostly pronounced in the center. Since Saturn hasn't reached opposition yet (08 March 2009), we should be able to see the shadow of the planet on the ring system, however, none of us picked up on this.

Screenshot from Starry Night of Saturn and attendant moons. We saw Titan, Dione, and Iapetus.

The Moon provided equal astonishment to the citizen observers. Large southern crater, Schickard straddled the terminator as it emerged from a lunar night. Just to north and west of Mare Humorum, craters Mersenius and Billy were bold enough to catch one's attention. Well formed with nice shadows, these two craters bridged the daytime time sky in the east with the morning sky in the west.

Many remarked on the "spider web" appearance of Copernicus' ejecta blanket. My eye followed the trail from Copernicus to Kepler stopping in the north at Aristarchus, Herodotus, and Vallis Schroter caught my eye.

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