10:30 p.m. 10 June 2006 PDT (2006–06–11–0530 UT)
It's been a long time—over half a year—since I've run Opus out for an observing session. I've taken the Wocket out for solar observing just about weekly over that time, but what little nighttime observing I've done, for a variety of reasons, has been binocular alone. I've had a bit more time over the last week or so, but that has coincided with a bout of the June gloom that seems to hit the California coast with awful regularity every single year (none as bad as 2000, though).
We got a break in the gloom tonight, so I took Opus out for what I expected would be a quick looksee, especially with the Full Moon running along the horizon. That expectation began to change when I trained the scope at Jupiter. The seeing was changing rapidly, probably partly as a result of some local cooling, even though Opus was taken directly from a cooled down garage. But in between bursts of 10-arcsecond seeing, it was evident that there was plenty of detail to see there. I could tell that the equatorial region was far busier than it was the last time I observed Jupiter, and there were two prominent festoons extending southward from the orange-brownish NEB, with one just about at the central meridian, and another about 30 degrees of longitude toward the trailing edge. The more grey SEB was intensely striated, and there was apparently a light pink oval just at the leading edge of the SEB. It was not, it seems, the GRS, which was too far around to be seen. Could it have been Oval BA (aka LRS, aka RSJ?)
Ten minutes later, the seeing had degraded enough to make the sight merely a good one, so I decided to take Opus off Jupiter and point it toward 38 Lyncis, a moderately uneven binary a couple of degrees north of alpha Lyncis. I knew it was an uneven binary (about mag 4/mag 6), but I deliberately did not look up the position angle. It was rather difficult to make out the secondary, not because of the difference in magnitude or the separation (about 2.7 arcseconds), but because it was only about 20 degrees up in the sky. Eventually, after a few minutes of looking patiently at the star, I decided there was a secondary at about 240 degrees. (The actual angle is 229—pretty close for an eyeball estimate.) Incidentally, I read about this binary in the Collins Atlas of the Night Sky—heartily recommended.
Just for the heck of it, I decided to return to Jupiter before doing some low-power observing. By this time, it was a few minutes to 11, and I found to my surprise that the seeing had improved dramatically. The contrast was impressive—impressive, at any rate, for a 5-inch obstructed scope. The festoons had noticeably rotated further around the giant planet, and there were now barges visible atop both the NEB and the STB, which itself was fairly distinct. By comparison, the NTB was rather faint and not sharply delineated from the area north of it. At times like these, the planet looks simply huge—partly because it's at opposition, but also because there's just so much to see on it.
I looked quickly at the Moon, just long enough to locate the bright pits of the craterlets in Plato, and then moved over to Porrima (gamma Virginis). I didn't think that I'd be able to see any split there, and sure enough, there was none to see. I couldn't even make out any elongation; that might have been because it was slightly lower than Jupiter and over the house, to boot. I decided to pick something easier and swung Opus over to Izar (epsilon Bootis), and that double, being wider and far higher in the sky, was indeed rather easy to see, and a beautiful sight, befitting its other name, Pulcherrima.
I tied up the night with M53, which is one of my favorite globulars, but with the Moon out, it was all but washed out in the glare. I was able to find it without too much difficulty, but there was really not any detail to make out. Still, a very worthwhile evening.
11:15 p.m. 24 June 2006 PDT (2006–06–25–0615 UT)
The June gloom has been rearing its ugly head for the last couple of weeks, so with even a promise of a clearing in the sky, I decided to set up for a short observing session.
And short it turned out to be. Clouds began encroaching on me the moment I had finished setting up. For some reason I had not seen Jupiter when I started, but by the time I was ready to observe, it was obvious—impossible to miss. Maybe some small cloud had been covering it up. In any event, the seeing was OK, but not phenomenal the way it was last time. It was possible, at the best of moments, to see some of the detail on the pole side of each of the equatorial belts, and to note that the NEB was orangier than the SEB, and that the EB was still full of activity—but precisely what that activity was, I couldn't be sure. The GRS and Oval BA had already rotated to the dark side long before I started (in fact, I think they were directly on the opposite side from me), so I couldn't even see I could detect those.
I did have time to glance up at M13. Using the 24 mm Panoptic (about 52x, and a fantastic field of view, by the way), I could make out protrusions of stars to the west, southwest, southeast, and northeast. I'll have to see if that jibes with what I've observed in the past.
And that was that. By the time I finished up with M13, the clouds were closing in fast. I tried to get in a quick look at M4, but I just wasn't fast enough, so I packed up. Believe it or not, less than an hour after I finished up, there was a rather active thunderstorm just to our north, with lots of sound and fury, but signifying nothing in the way of precipitation.
Copyright (c) 2006 Brian Tung