Friday, September 6, 2013

Day sights too!

I like a challenge!

I mean, anyone can go out on a clear night, look up and see stars and planets! It's dead easy, really - unless, of course, you're stuck under city lights. If that's the case...not so much! But even being in the suburbs opens more opportunities for night time star gazing.

But...what about the day? People may say "Yeah, the sun! And maybe the moon! But that's it! Right!?" Oh, ye of little imagination!

Sun's up? Let's see what's there!
 I remember the first time I saw Jupiter in the daytime! It was at Star Fest. The waning crescent moon happened to be passing close to Jupiter in the morning sky which created an opportunity to use it as a landmark towards spotting Jupiter. So, with my trusty 80mm Celestron refractor, I took aim at the moon and moved the scope southwards a bit and...there it was! No FREAKIN' WAY!! Not that it was the BEST view of Jupiter I'd ever had. But it was there.

Then came the time when I saw Venus for the first time. I was in the backyard with the sun a couple of hourse away from setting. I looked...and looked...and looked some more! No way I was going to...wait...THERE it is! No FREAKIN' WAY!!! Time to go get the telescope!

Over the years, I've uncovered multiple opportunities to spot Venus and Jupiter during the day and all to varying degrees of success. Usually the moon or Venus - which is intrinsically bright anyway - act as guideposts to Jupiter. 

However, while I've occasionally bemoaned computerized "goto" mounts for telescope as "cheating," I've used them myself and they've given me some unique opportunities. For instance, seeing Saturn before the sun went down prior to the start of an observing session. Yes! I did! I even have witnesses who can verify!.

Then last summer, I had another goto I used to see the constellation of Auriga's brightest star (and sixth brightest in the entire sky) Capella at about 9 a.m. "Now we're getting somewhere!"

So last week, I decided to go even further! It started the night before setting up the scope in the evening to do some general observing using a goto mount! It performed decently well and most of the objects came in pretty well centered. Then the first inklings of a thought began to percolate! Why not repeat your Capella achievement tomorrow morning!? 

With that in mind, I set the mount to 'sleep' mode and went to bed. The next morning, I got up early and set about it...and couldn't find Capella! Seriously!? With some assorted cursing, I decided not to throw in the towel and try for something else. Jupiter! I hit the appropriate buttons...and there it was! A little off to the side, but still in the scope! Okay! That's more like it! Well, if that would work, how about...Sirius!!?? Yes! Why not. More button pushing FREAKIN' WAY!!! There it is! 

Keep in mind...the sun is up by a couple of hours now! And I'm actually stargazing in the daylight! 

So I put the mount back into 'sleep' mode and waited for later when Venus would clear the trees. Later came and...there it is! But, what about Mercury? Assorted buttons pushed and...there Mercury was! 

Now, I'll acknowledge at this point that all of this was done with an electronically assisted mount! However, some correction did have to be done by me! And the conditions were superbly dry in the sky as it was a brilliant shade of deep blue which seems to be a major requirement for this kind of activity! And some well-placed trees or a house to block the worst of the sun. So it was a wonderful convergence of electronics, some skill and weather conditions. But so worth the effort!

Hmmm...I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?

Clear skies!

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