After several months of cancelled and clouded out observing nights, the skies finally co-operated on Saturday 29/1/11. Five members (three with scopes) and one visitor attended.
We set up our scopes well before sunset and then, as the the daylight faded, we competed in trying to be the first to spot Jupiter. Gary spotted it first and quickly got his scoped pointed at the giant planet. The equatorial bands were very obvious even in the semi-daylight. Io was very close to the edge of the planet’s disk as it was due to be occulted at 9pm.
For much of the evening we worked from an observing list which Gary had obtained from http://www.calsky.com a website which allows you to print an observing list for any time and location.
During the evening, we observed the following objects:
- Jupiter and the occultation of Io just before 9pm. However the planet disappeared below the trees in the west before the Red Spot came into view.
- M42 (Orion Nebula) – Perhaps the most spectacular object in the sky. We returned to this several times during the evening as the sky darkened showing more and more detail.
- 47 Tucanae (Globular in Tucanae) – A magnificent object which we also observed several times.
- NGC362 (Globular in Tucanae) – Small and fuzzy but worth a look for comparison to the nearby 47 Tucanae.
- Iridium Flare – The CalSky list predicted this for 9.13pm. Just before the appointed time, I used my digital setting circles to rapidly slew my scope to within a couple of degrees of the co-ordinates given in the CalSky list. This gave us a rough indication of where to look. We looked in that direction and almost immediately the flare appeared as a bright Venus-like object. It lasted a few seconds and then faded rapidly.
- IC348 (Nebula in Perseus) – Barely visible nebulosity surrounding a central star
- NGC1851 (Globular in Columba)
- M77 (Cetus A – Spiral Galaxy in Cetus) – Small and dim but easy to spot. Almost like a planetary nebula in appearance.
- M1 (The Crab Nebula) – Just a smudge.
- M79 (Globular in Lepus)
- M35 (Open cluster in Gemini) – I stumbled on this nice open cluster by accident while searching fot NGC2129 (next)
- NGC2129 (Open cluster in Gemini) – so unimpressive that we were not sure it was even a cluster.
- NGC2070 (Tarantula Nebula in Dorado) – A spectacular sight with lots of spider-like structure visible.
We packed up at about 11pm after a very enjoyable night of viewing.