Observation Log 4/9/04

Away on holiday, but still making time for planet spotting.

We’re in northern NY visiting family for the holidays, so time has been less predictable. Still, I managed to spot Venus at 4PM with the Canon 10×30 Image Stabilizing binoculars, after spending 30 minutes trying to find it without aid. My single-eye theory hasn’t worked out yet—or perhaps I just need more practice. I went out again later to try and spot all 5 naked-eye planets. It was 7:30PM EDT (we just switched to Daylight Savings Time last weekend), so the stars were just coming out. I did spot Jupiter & the 4 major moons, Saturn & Titan, Mars and very bright Venus. Mercury was below the local treeline by then. Mars & Venus were surprisingly close. only 7° apart.

I got a bit faked out by the straight line formed by Saturn and two foot stars in Gemini, Tejat Posterior and Propus/Tejat Prior. It looked just like Orion’s belt in the twilight, but of course Betelgeuse was missing, and where Rigel should have been was the real Betelgeuse, looking red and not at all like Rigel. Was this Mars? It was still too bright at that point to find the true Mars, and it seemed rather far from the ecliptic. Anyway, it was fun to be a bit disoriented without my own yard as a frame of reference. Trying to find the ecliptic just from the Sun’s position at 4PM EDT, I must have looked pretty silly, examining my shadow, and using my arms to form 90 and 45° angles. But it was fun!

Hopefully tomorrow night I’ll make more time for some observing. Clear skies are a rarity here.

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