Log, Sep 3, 1999

Friday: 54 people. The "Rhythm and Roots" concerts in Ninigret Park generated a larger than usual group of people at FDO. For a night that the staff had written off due to poor weather and a concert by C.J. Chenier being held a few hundred yards away, we had an exciting night, and excellent background music to boot! The sky was totally over cast early, but about 10:30 small areas of clearing allowed us to look at a double star (Zeta Sagittarius) and after a while M22.

By 11:00, the clearing had spread east, and Jupiter had cleared the single large tree that's nearby, which happens to stand right on the ecliptic. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we had a transit of Io in progress! The shadow stood out clearly, positioned firmly on the SEB. This was our first real look at Jupiter in the new 16" LX-200, and coupled with our 12 mm type 4 Nagler, the view was stunning. The belts were a most definite shade of brown, as opposed to the variations of gray that I've been used to seeing in smaller scopes. The other 3 major moons were all over on the west side, making a lovely sight.

Jupiter was quite a hit, and then we noticed that Saturn was emerging from the clouds as well. It was lower and more prone to atmospheric disturbance, but there were momentary periods of great clarity, eliciting gasps from many of our visitors - and staff too! It was also our first real view of Saturn, and for the rest of the evening we bounced back and forth between these two jewels, depending on which was clearest at the time.

By about 1:15, Jupiter was the only thing left in the sky that could be seen with the naked eye! We watched it for another half hour, since we could discern the disk of Io towards the west side of the planet. We compared our view with the simulations in both SkyChart III and SkyMap Pro 5, waiting to see how closely our observations tallied with the computer models. We found that SkyChart III seemed to be about a half hour off, until we found the setting to adjust for the light's travel time - almost 36 minutes!

Io was making its way west, we noticed the Great Red Spot (soon to be officially renamed as the PPO - Pale Peach Oval) rising toward the east. It had traveled almost halfway across Jupiter's disk by 1:35 AM, when we determined Io had fully cleared the planet's disk.

We were very gratified to see how closely our various software packages matched the actual sky events - once we made required adjustments for light travel time.

Much to our surprise there is a lot more interest in software simulations of the real sky than I would have thought. Being able to show maps and even more significantly, being able to model actual events ahead of their occurrence is extremely helpful. Many visitors as well as the staff, could see both Io and its shadow. Timing the departure of Io tested the patience of us. Finally, just before 2 AM the final triumvirate (Dave, Joe and myself) saw Io safely in interplanetary space. Only Jupiter could be seen through the gathering fog. We closed and headed home.

We said welcome to Allyson Polak, an astronomy/physics graduate student who is considering joining our merry little band. Allyson's special interest is interferometry - a hot topic with the twin Kecks and the big new telescope at Cerro Paranal. She has not had much recent hands on activity because URI facilities are limited to smaller telescopes set up in dark corners of the campus. The opportunity to use our large telescope, coupled with her interest in teaching astronomy seem a like match for FDO and she alike.

We put the StarFire up for sale today. Within the first fifteen hours we had over a hundred "Internet window shoppers" look to see what we are offering. We have some indications of interest in the telescope's purchase.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 3, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
Subscribe to Leslie Coleman's Log RSS Feed