Saturn, Neptune and Jupiter

After taking the telescope down before going to St Michaels and to Bethany Beach, it needed to be put back up before it could be used again. Since the evening forecast indicated surface winds and bad seeing, but otherwise good transparency, I decided that getting a good polar alignment, and doing some visual observing of Saturn and Jupiter would be the best astronomical use of the coming night. I took advantage of a nice, cool day to put three 12” x 12” bluestone pavers in the ground where the tripod legs sit, and I set up the scope. Set up went without a hitch.

I decided to operate on Kendricks battery power so that I could have a “drained” battery for trying out my solar panel. Speaking of power, I am thinking about putting a 200 watt panel on the roof. That might not be a total solution, but it will add some marginal power.

Conditions were as expected. There was no dew, because the relative humidity stayed low, and the winds 5-ish mph winds helped in this regard. The winds did buffet the scope a bit, and bad seeing accompanied the surface winds, which altogether diminished the detail that I would be able to see.

Start up went pretty well. I had some trouble getting Stellarium connected to the mount. I got that ironed out pretty quicky, but in the end I did not use Stellarium. The last of the clouds cleared out at around 2015, and I went to work. No issues with polar alignment.

Saturn popped out of the trees at about 2040. My initial slew found it on the edge of the Panoptic 35 fov, so I centered it and star aligned on it. All subsequent slews were spot on.

Saturn looked pretty decent with the Panoptic 35 and the Nagler 17. The Radian 5 didn’t add anything. I could see some banding on the globe, and I could see where the shadow of the globe falls on rings on the western limb. I could not see Cassini Division or any differentiation in the rings. As for satellites, I could see Titan and Rhea, but nothing else.

I had a short wait after finishing with Saturn before Neptune was out of the trees. It was not much to look at. It had a definite bluish cast and it did present a disk, so I am certain that it was Neptune.

The wait for Jupiter was a little longer. It was out of the trees just before 2200. The only surface detail that I could see with any eyepiece were the north and south equatorial bands, which were fairly contrasty. I was surprised that I could not make out any other details. If I had waited two more hours I would have been treated to a Ganymede transit starting very close to the rising GRS.

The only to-do item from the session is to check out the solar panel and see if I can recharge the battery with it. At present (0830) the whole back yard is in the shade, which highlights another solar power limitation.

All in all, it was an enjoyable night out, and considering what needed to be done, I made the best of the conditions.

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