Saturday, April 15, 2017

Observing Log for 14 April 2017

Last night we had mainly clear skies with just a bit of haze. We observed the following objects:

  • Jupiter (planet) : Jupiter was at opposition on Friday 7 April 2017 and will therefore be well-placed for observing throughout the summer months. We were able to make out cloud bands on the planet and the four Galilean satellites- Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • M42 (Orion Nebula) : At 1300 light-years distant, the Orion Nebula is one of the closest regions of star formation to us. Because the constellations set a little bit earlier each evening, Orion and the Orion Nebula won't be visible in the night sky too much longer.
  • M35 (open cluster) : We were also able to see M35 in the constellation Gemini. Like Orion, Gemini is not visible in the night sky during the summer months, so I'm glad we were able to catch this object as well. M35 is an example of an open star cluster and is about 2800 light-years from Earth.
  • M81 (galaxy): The last deep sky object we saw was M81 in the constellation Ursa Major. M81 is a spiral galaxy (like our own Milky Way) and is about 12 million light-years distant. Last night we saw it as a faint fuzzy through both the 8-inch and 14-inch scopes.
  • Castor (α Gemini) : Castor is a multiple star system in the constellation of Gemini. Though our telescopes we could resolve two of the stars in this sextuple (six star!) system.
We also tried (and failed!) to find Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak. Comet 41P is currently in the constellation Draco with an apparent magnitude of 7.5. It should be visible through a small telescope, but unfortunately part of the Science Center roof blocked its location. We'll try again next time.

Thank you everyone for attending the event last night, and for your interest in the Montgomery College Observatory.