A few times recently when leaving work I have looked up to see Venus very bright in the evening sky, but by the time I have got home, cloud has moved in, or after the usual home chores, dog walk, meal, chat with the wife, its too late and Venus has got too low in the sky.
So tonight I made a point of getting home in good time, and upon checking the Internet for the next few days weather forecast as being yet more cloud, and possibly rain, I decided to make the most of the starry night and get my XT10 telescope straight outside, set up and at last (more than a year after getting the scope) I have seen Venus close up with my own eyes.
Venus is in Aquarius this month and climbing into Pisces as January and February progress, and with my 10mm EP + 2xBarlow (240x magnification), the planets disc is half full now, and waning through until about mid-March when it becomes a sliver of a crescent, but also starts to descends back toward the horizon in the first half of March. On the 22nd January it passes within about 2 degrees of Uranus, which might be something nice to watch out for.
Even though I saw Venus, the view was rather poor, partly due to its low position by the time I was viewing at about 7.00pm, and partly because I had to point the telescope through the back gate and this is near to the central heating boiler flue outlet, and of course the heat blowing round the corner was causing havoc with the image, causing it to shimmer and jump all over the place. Nevertheless its a nice catch!
Ben dog was most disgruntled that I had abandoned his walk in favour of Venus, and once my main objective was achieved, I took him round the village. After his walk, a flurry of clouds had disappeared, and so I reckoned I had best make the most of the clear sky.
Its not the greatest night for stargazing due to an almost full Moon, but I wanted to try out my binoculars after having performed some maintenance on them at the weekend. I had dismantled two of my four sets of binos; my Dad’s old 10×50’s, and my brand new Adler Optik Jupiter 20×80 Giant Observation binos, in order to clean them and improve their focusing adjustments which are annoyingly stiff. I’m going to write-up how I cleaned them (and I took quite a few photos to show the process), but the task was well worth the effort as focusing them is now wonderfully free and easy. I can’t believe how much better and more enjoyable they are for observing now that they’ve been cleaned (and the 20×80’s have had a slight modification to improve their action). With a nice free focusing action, and the right hand eyepiece rotating effortlessly, I am amazed at how much easier it is to achieve fine focus, and realise now how frustrating focusing was beforehand.
I did some casual observing with both binos, and enjoyed the Pleiades (saw a nice bright shooting star zip through the field of view), viewed Sirius and M41 (NGC 2287) in Canis Major, tried to find Saturn, but I think it was lurking below the rooftops, and took a look at Orions Sword, and could quite clearly make out the main Orion nebula and the Trapezium in its centre.
Next I used the XT10 to observe Gemini, and split the white Castor double (another first for me), and viewed Pollux, clearly yellow-orange. Castor actually contains six stars, arranged in three close pairs. Each pair is a spectroscopic binary, the individual components only discernible with a spectroscope by their Doppler shifts. The two brighter pairs are called Castor A (magnitude 2) and Castor B (magnitude 2.9) which are currently about 3 seconds of arc apart. The Castor C pair lies nearly twice the apparent diameter of Jupiter to the southeast of the main pair and is of magnitude 9. The main pair of Castor A and B, orbit one another at a distance of 12 billion km (more than the diameter of the Solar System), with a period of approximately 400 years, yet are difficult to separate in small telescopes and require good optics, high power, steady skies and patience to resolve them. I did it easily with the XT10i !!
Finally I turned my attention to the Moon and Barlowed the 10mm to get up nice and close, and used Virtual Moon on the laptop to help identify various craters of interest along the terminator.
Quite a nice nights viewing in all. And guess what - tomorrow my new telescope will arrive! I got a bargain in the January sales from First Light Optics with a Celestron C6-S XLT (non-Goto) with the StarBright XLT coatings, knocked down from £545 to £349, plus I’ve ordered the Skywatcher SynScan PRO GOTO Version 3 Upgrade Kit for EQ5 that is compatible with the C6 to make it into the equivalent of the C6-SGT XLT (Goto) which normal retails around £750 to £850, so I’ve got an overall saving of about 100 quid, plus I’ll enjoy adding the GOTO Upgrade during the next few cloudy/rainy days. Can’t wait! Naturally I’ll take some pics to show you in due course
Until then, wishing you clear skies.