Sunday Astronomy Roundup

We had a fun time at the club last night. The moon was bright and we had some scattered clouds, but observing the planets and some other moons was fruitful. The crater Pythagoras was impressive on the moon. It’s in the northwest and just before local dawn. The crater floor was in shadow, but the rim and central peak were just visible. On the right is ESA’s image from the SMART lunar probe, taken near local noon.

A personal first: seeing a phase of the planet Mercury through a telescope. It was only the third time I’d ever viewed the solar system’s smallest planet, the other times being a transit in 1974 (when Mercury crossed the sun’s disk) and 2001 in Omaha with the planet Venus bright in the West. Mercury is still visible the next few days shortly after sunset with a clear western horizon.

I set up the club’s 12-inch reflector on the grass near the 16-incher and kept it on Saturn and its moons most of the evening. We had a lot of guests last night, so I would test their observing chops and ask if they caught three small dots to the right of Saturn (Tethys, Dione, and Rhea) plus Titan to the left. Iapetus was a bit farther away from the planet. Catching those five moons is a bit tougher than Jupiter’s Galilean moons. The latter are easily visible through binoculars. Titan is too. But the other four are a bit of a challenge.

Mars was high up in the sky, also. One club member glimpsed the north polar cap. I can’t admit I saw it. Mars makes a trip through Cancer’s Beehive this week. A good view for binoculars or a small telescope. Sky & Telescope’s map is on the left.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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