Star Party Report from October

October 16 at Maturango

Ralph Paonessa  –  October 19, 2021
Skies were clear and views were excellent for those who attended our October 16 Star Party.

We had great views of the eleven-day-old Moon as well as the planets at our Quarter Moon Star party. The astronomical seeing started out steady and became better as the night wore one, allowing us to see a lot of details.

The crowd was small, but those who came could spend more time at the eyepiece. We set up three telescopes, 8- and 10-inch Dobs and the 8-inch Meade SCT in the dome, supervised by Chuck, Ralph, and Keith, respectively. Keith added a camera to the scope for live display of the view.

Saturday was International Observe the Moon Night; hear more about this in the CLAS program in November. The views around Mare Humorum ("Sea of Moisture") along the lunar terminator were impressive, with clear views Gassendi crater and its central mountains. If you spent more time looking for details, you could see the delicate lines of various ridges and valleys (rilles — the lunar equivalent of Owens Valley! without the motels) snaking along the flat surfaces of the lunar "seas." We spotted various small craterlets that pockmarked these expanses of solidified lunar magma that flowed eons ago.

I could stare for hours through the eyepiece and always find something new on the Moon!

Before we turned to the Moon, the first order of business was bright Venus before it followed the sun down in the west. We could clearly the half-illuminated phase of our neighbor closer to the Sun — much clearer than in September, when the atmosphere was turbulent. Did you know that Venus has phases, just like our Moon?

The Galilean Moons of Jupiter were strung out in a line west of the planet, like four tiny diamonds in the sky when we first looked at this planet. Many of its atmospheric bands were quite obvious, and more so at 150x in steady seeing. After an hour or so, we noticed that the inner moons Io and Europa were seemingly approaching each other (as we were viewing along the plane of their orbits) and finally traded places.

The rings of Saturn were very clear, and it was not difficult to pick out the Cassini Division, as well as several of its larger moons scattered among the background stars.

All in all, a great night!

File under: Astronomy