Telescoping: April 11

We’re having an odd break in the weather here in the Seattle area, and last night the clouds cleared.  (Not to mention it’s beautiful and sunny today, and supposed to hit the low 70’s!)  Diann & I went out to Rattlesnake Lake, where the temps were hovering in the mid-40’s.  The moon was up in it’s last quarter, so that definitely put a damper on finding some of the fainter objects, but there were still galaxies to be found.  Further complicating things was the gusty wind and the turbulent atmosphere – it’s difficult focusing in on tiny points of light when your telescope is jumping around because of the wind.

Last night’s viewing included Saturn (with Titan, Tethys, and Rhea just barely visible), Mars, M109, M108, M106, M105, and M51 (as well as NGC5195) again.  Mars was a particularly interesting view – it was about a degree away from the moon, so looking at it looked as though you were looking at an orange ball in a white mist.  We also took a peek at the moon once we were ready to kill our night vision, and I started putting some of my planetary filters to use.  I used the Meade #38A Dark Blue filter to look at the moon – which is great, because it cuts out about 80% of the light that comes through it.  If you’ve never seen the moon through a telescope, you’d be shocked at how bright it really is.

We also were able to catch an Iridium Flare – our first view of that.  Overall, I’d call that anti-climactic, but I guess it was worth taking the eyes off the telescope for a few minutes to catch.  It really is amazing how much space junk is up there: I saw satellites and/or debris shoot through my field of view several times while looking through the scope at galaxies and the moon.

After about an hour and a half of fighting the wind, we decided to pack it up and go home.