My Observing Log: January/February 2003

3:00 a.m. 2 January 2003 PDT (2003–01–02–1100 UT)

This time, I was up late enough to see Jupiter relatively high in the sky, but it didn't help. This has been a very disappointing winter for seeing. I know, I know, winter isn't usually a good season for atmospheric stability, anyway, but I've been spoiled by the ordinarily accommodating seeing here in Santa Monica.

Only the two main belts (SEB and NEB) were clearly visible, and even they weren't steady. I could see enough to tell that the NTB was remarkably faint—even during the few moments of decent stability, it was hardly there to be seen. But most of the time, I could see the satellites winking bright, then faint, and it was generally frustrating to observe Jupiter.

1:00 a.m. 5 January 2003 PDT (2003–01–05–0900 UT)

A little better tonight—perhaps not on average, but there were more moments of decent seeing, where I could see detail on Jupiter. I did confirm that the NTB is very faint this seeing. I haven't had a chance to observe Jupiter when the GRS was out, so I can't comment on reports that it's been more prominent. I did see two or three festoons dropping from the NEB, but these appear less distinct than in years past. I can't say whether that's due more to their actual contrast on Jupiter, or to the indifferent seeing conditions.

I also tried observing Saturn, but by this time, the ringed planet had dropped almost directly over our house, and heat currents made it pretty much impossible to get much detail out of the view. It might be getting a bit late in the season to try it, fairly soon.

11:00 p.m. 15 January 2003 PDT (2003–01–16–0700 UT)

Tonight was another in a long series of so-so nights for observing the planets. At some point, I should just not force myself only to try for Jupiter and Saturn, and go for some deep-sky targets as well. But tonight, with the newborn still fussy, I only had time to take a quick look at Jupiter.

The view was not as good as it was on the fifth—more on par with the second. The NTB is still indistinct, but I could see it better than I could earlier this month. Again, I'm not sure whether that's a real change or just a turbulence effect. It was somewhat easier to see at 80x than at 200x, possibly because the image is more concentrated then. Still no GRS visible—I'm just choosing the wrong times, I guess.

9:00 p.m. 25 January 2003 PDT (2003–01–26–0500 UT)

My friend Ben Kolstad was out on a business trip, and had time to see us tonight. When he and his wife lived here, they were members of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society along with me, and we often went to star parties (public and dark-sky) together. He didn't bring any of his instruments out on this trip, but we set up both Snuffy (the 10-inch dob) and Opus for a little comparison.

As it happens, Ben lives in south Florida, where the seeing is legendary, but the cloud cover is oppressive. So although he got to taunt me with tales of the planetary views from his home, I got to taunt him right back with how rarely he gets to see those planetary views.

The seeing was indeed half-good, half-bad tonight, although I must say, it's very impressive how the view through the 10-inch is noticeably superior anyway. It's all well and good to know that the larger scope has an Airy disc half the size, but until you see the effect on detail, it's hard to appreciate it. Looking at double stars, the 10-inch just made it so much easier to split. Mostly, we went back and forth between Jupiter and Saturn, trying to get a few moments of decent viewing—and they did happen—but it was mostly a trying experience. More a matter of friendly conversation, you know.

Copyright (c) 2003 Brian Tung