The Moon, A Nebula, and a Not-a-Nebula

The weather finally let up, so I took the telescope out for a whirl this evening. Tonight's stargazing qualifies as a success.

First off, the Moon is back after a prolonged absence, so I was able to use it to align the viewfinder (the Moon is more than a mile away, fortunately), and give the Barlow lens and more powerful (10 mm) eyepiece a solid test run. The Barlow lens doubles the magnification of whatever eyepiece you pair it with. With the Barlow lens and the 10 mm eyepiece, the Moon was enormous. Lots of detail, very sharp shadows, and craters I felt like I could touch. Next time I'll look for the American flag.

I was also able to finally spot the Orion Nebula, using the freshly aligned viewfinder. Here the 10 mm eyepiece was less useful. As I've mentioned before, the thing is so sensitive to ambient light that it's like looking through sunglasses. I could tell that the nebula was better defined using the higher-powered eyepiece, but I just couldn't see it very well. The Barlow lens with the weaker eyepiece, however, provided a great view of the nebula.

I had intended to try and find the Andromeda Galaxy, but that didn't work out so well. I was hoping I could use the R.A./Dec. coordinates from the astronomy software that came with the telescope, but unfortunately the R.A./Dec. dials on the telescope don't seem to bear any relation to the coordinates of whatever the scope is pointing at. Very frustrating. I'll have to either figure out how to get the dials to function properly (this probably involves aligning the telescope in a manner that's more complicated than what I've been doing) or use other means, perhaps the Space Navigator that my in-laws got me for Christmas.

So, I didn't see any galaxies. I did manage to get the scope pointed at the Pleides, and saw what appeared to be a nebula within the cluster. At first I thought it may just have been some extra glow from a particularly bright star through the damp air, but the edges seemed to be well-defined, and I didn't see any similar glows on other bright stars (including Sirius, the brightest damn star in the sky, which was hanging low in the south). It turns out, according to the Internet, that what I saw was not a nebula, but reflection nebulosity caused by the light from the star passing through interstellar dust. Neat!

Finally, I gave Mars another shot. It's still just a small red dot, and it was even fainter this evening because it was right near the Moon, and the light from the Moon was washing out the glow of the planet. I'm kind of done with Mars for this year. According to my astro software, however, Saturn will be showing up in the east in a few hours. I may stay up for that.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by hb published on January 19, 2008 10:26 PM.

Uncoordinated was the previous entry in this blog.

The Terrible Secrets of Space, Part One: Let's Get Small is the next entry in this blog.

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