April 24th, 2007

College

More Astronomy stuff

Last night was one of the first times we've been able to go outside when it was warm enough to enjoy using the telescopes. We set up the 8" Dobsian scopes on the plaza outside the class area and waited for it to get dark enough to really see the stars.

At 20:11:13 though, we caught a really cool sight. Iridium Satellite 80 was in the perfect position as the sun was setting to flare. Looking up into the darkening sky, all of a sudden a huge bright light appeared, reminding me of the old star flares we used to use in the military. It only lasted for a few seconds before fading out of site, but it occurred almost exactly where Professor Haxton had predicted it to appear. He told us it had taken him quite a while to figure out the satellite's orbit, the angle of its mirrors, the angle of the sun and the location of the Parking garage to determine if the flare could even be seen from our location, much less when it would happen.

Once that was over, we set up the telescopes and rushed to get our observations in before a cloud front moved in. First thing my partner and I observed was the quarter moon. We were lined up perfectly with the terminus between day and night on the moon and the shadows in the craters were easily observed. I think if the moon had been full, the 8" scope might have been a bit too powerful, but with the quarter moon, it was just about right. They tried to take some digital photographs through my scope, but I'm not certain if any turned out. If they do, I'll post some here.

Then we found Saturn again. This time, the atmosphere was perfect for watching. The rings were clear and distinct and the Cassini line was easily observed in the rings. Also, Titan was orbiting close to Saturn as well as a few of the other moons. I would really have loved to have that picture also, but the clouds were moving in quickly.

We attempted to spot a few double stars but by then, the clouds were too thick, so Professor Haxton called off the lab. We'll be doing some of our "manual" observations (determining angles using a cross-stick or your hand) this weekend. We're down to three labs left this year, which is disappointing, since I've really enjoyed this class a lot more than I thought I would.

Now, time to study for tomorrow night's test. Bleah.