atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#4781: Seeing Jupiter as Galileo did

Tonight marked the second time I got the telescope out and had a gander through the eyepiece. The targets tonight were Venus and Jupiter, low in the western sky after sunset.

Venus first, because it's extra-bright and obvious. I had a very hard time getting the telescope pointed the right way, but once Venus was in the eyepiece I stopped to line up the sighting scope with the main scope, so that future endeavors would be easier. (It worked.)

Venus is in crescent phase right now--waning crescent, I think, but don't quote me--so the planet's disk is less than 50% illuminated. It made a very nice target for the telescope's first-ever planetary observation outing, since it's obvious if you're looking at it or not.

Once I had it centered in the eyepiece, I doped out how to use the 3x magnifier, and of course it also magnified all the atmospherics that kept me from getting a good, hard focus. Let's face it: eight or ten degrees above the horizon is not going to make for good seeing even if there weren't a thin layer of clouds between me and the planet. Seeing was, shall we say, less than optimal--yet I could see, very clearly for the first time with my own eyes, the phase Venus was in.

Heartened by my success, I then turned the telescope towards Jupiter. It took more fiddling and finagling, but I finally got the gas giant in view and added the 3x magnifier. It was no better focused than Venus was, but


because I could actually see its moons, the Galilean satellites: Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. They were in better focus than Jupiter was, hard little diamond points in a plane that bisected the planet's disk.

Got Mrs. Fungus outside and let her have a look at both worlds, then she went inside again and I turned my attention towards our own moon.

With the regular eyepiece, as before, the half moon filled the eyepiece, and with the moon in first quarter the craters stood out in sharp relief in a way they hadn't when I saw the full moon in December. Like the planets, the moon was partly obscured by a thin layer of high altitude haze, making the seeing less than optimal, but it was still right f-ing there in the eyepiece.

Added the 3x--it magnifies the atmospheric turbulence and all the other crap, as well as the thing you're trying to look at, so I found it better just to look at the moon through the regular eyepiece. Even so, 3x the normal magnification was awesome.

Finding the planets would have been easier had I first set up the equatorial mount properly. I made it work as it was, but I really, really, really need to sit down with this thing and go through the documentation and set it up correctly. Even so, once I had something in view, twiddling the fine motion knobs kept it centered, and when I was looking at the Moon I could pan over its surface as I pleased with them.

This really is--as I suspected on Christmas day--the kind of telescope I've always wanted. I've never seen the Galilean satellites with my own eyes before, and the last time I tried to see the phase of Venus it was with a crappy-cheap 2" refractor telescope that--on maximum magnification and at best focus--was only able to show me Venus as a fuzzy blob. (At lower magnifications, Venus was a fuzzy dot. The moon was always a blur. When you have a 2" telescope with a 1/2" aperture light block in the barrel, it's made with shitty lenses, as I found out.)

I brought everything back in and sat in my chair, grinning. Mrs. Fungus said, "You're so cute."


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