Observing Log for 2006-05-11
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2006-05-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 21.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.4C ...
Humidity: 40% ...
Wind Speed: 3.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1017.2hPa ...
Notes:

Very warm, clear day. No real haze to speak of and no clouds visible. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.

Sun

From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see a single active area (880) which only contained a single spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 20:45 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 14.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.7C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1015.8hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, no cloud visible, although the sky did look a little murky towards the horizon. Moon close to full (about 95% waxing gibbous) so moonlight was bound to make for a pretty awful sky.

Having read in a couple of places that fragment B of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was in outburst (even to the point of claiming that it was visible to the naked eye in moonlight) I decided to have a session to see if I could find it.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-11 20:50 UT
To: 2006-05-11 20:59 UT

Sky not quite properly dark yet so I decided to start with another look at Saturn. Using the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece I had a view that wasn't one of the best I'd ever had. The image wasn't very crisp and was often unsteady. Despite this most of the usual detail could still be seen. Both shadows were very obvious and there was a hint of banding on the planet itself. The Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view but was mostly hard to see.

Titan was visible although, with direct vision, would pop in and out of view (first time I've ever seen that happen). With averted vision I could see it with little problem.

State of the sky

Time: 2006-05-11 21:05 UT

By this point the sky was still very light, it was very hard to see all but the brightest of stars. Looking at Ursa Minor, for example, I could only easily see the three main stars (Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad).

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-11 21:07 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:35 UT

From 21:07 UT to around 21:18 UT I did an initial sweep for either fragment B or fragment C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with the binocular but failed to locate either of them. This seemed to confirm that the sky was pretty terrible.

After double checking the location of fragment B (it was located about way between Deneb and Sulafat) I did another sweep that ended around 21:34 UT but I'd still not found it.

Finally, after a third attempt, at around 21:45 UT I was sure I'd finally found fragment B. It was in exactly the right location but very hard to see. All I could detect was a faint, ghostly patch with no definition to it. It was right on the edge of my vision with direct vision and only a little better when using averted vision.

To be sure that I had located it I made a mental note of the pattern of stars close by and popped into the office to check the location with Starry Night. This check confirmed that I had located fragment B.

Between around 22:15 UT and 22:35 UT I made further observations, comparing the view in the binocular with the view in the 905 using the 32mm eyepiece. It appeared to be easier to see with the binocular than with the 905.

By the time I stopped attempting to observe fragment B the sky hadn't improved, if anything I'd have said that it had got a little worse. Even as late as 22:35 UT I could still only easily see the three main stars in Ursa Minor.

Jupiter

From: 2006-05-11 22:40 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT

I noticed that it was now possible to have a look at Jupiter from round the side of the house so I moved the 905 into position, lined it up on the planet and dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. The view was very impressive, possibly the best view I've had yet (which is saying something considering how low down it is this apparition). Not only could I see the two main bands, they both had a very mottled appearance that was always visible. Also, the rest of the disc had very obvious variation with hints of detail to them. The polar regions were obviously very different in colour from the rest of the planet.

All four of the main moons were easily visible. When I had the planet in the middle of the field of view Callisto, which was furthest out, didn't actually fit in the field.

At 22:51 UT I decided to call an end to the session. Conditions were far from ideal and I needed to be up at a reasonable time the following morning.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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