Events of Wednesday, August 27th 2008
It was hot Wednesday with surprisingly clear skies and coinciding with a moon going into a new moon phase. No lunar reflection to mar the heavens for viewing, so with these factors in mind. I get a call from my brother who was eager to take advantage of these events to view the heavens.
He just happens to have my telescope over at his place but before he can collect it, he needs to attend a class at the college. I hint it’s better to attend the class first rather than place the scope in the trunk of his vehicle; don’t want the days heat to distort the mirror & lens.
Arriving at my place to pick me up at around 7:30 pm, I’m ready to go with my laptop in hand to assist in viewing the cosmos. It’s has a sky chart program in real time to quickly assist in finding the celestial objects, even though I’ve a basic understanding and can find most constellations by eye.
We have agreed to head out to Lands End above the Cliff House, where they have the monument to the U.S.S. San Francisco. The Amateur Astronomers frequent this location as it gets fairly dark, but where still in the city and can actually see the glow of ambient light. It would have been nice to go to Mount Tamalpais but you need a permit after dark to be up there, and the rangers will run you off or arrest you.
The suns is setting quickly and we took a moment see if we could spot Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn nearer to the Sun. It’s getting dark as I’m setting up the equatorial mount for the scope and already were drawing a crowd of three. I dislike fumbling with the Scope in the fading light; it sort of makes you look inept. Also I’m glad to have thought to bring along my heavy jacket the temperature is noticeably falling by degrees even at this vantage point of being two hundred feet above the ocean, it's getting cooler.
Where set up to view the heavens and focusing on Jupiter, which is just above the handle of the tea pot that is the constellation of Sagittarius. The fifth planet looks impressive with two moons to either side and evenly spaced. It looks like the Goddess was doodling in the sky (..o..) similar to this.
My brother Ralph is pointing out objects that are slowly drifting across the sky and asking, “do you think that’s an aircraft?” has to be a satellite traversing from South to North. Were tracking with binoculars and it’s a vague speck in the sky (satellite for sure) a moment later he spots another one traveling in the opposite direction. The best time to see man-made objects up there, is just after sunsets and the sky is darkening.
We try to spot the Andromeda galaxy but it’s turning out to be a bit of a difficulty due to the ambient light from the city. Also people keep driving up with their headlights ablaze ruining our night vision. Even the Park Ranger drives up and asks “what cha looking at” I can show him but request that he turn off his lights, but then he just drove away. The rest of the evening is the same stuff of headlights coming into the area and driving right up to us to ask “what were doing” because they spotted the setup to view the stars with. I wouldn’t mind it too much if they turned off the headlights and just used the running lights to approach but I’m dealing with un-enlightend mundanes.
Didn’t spot the Andromeda Galaxy but not from the lack of trying, the sky just wasn’t dark enough and we where constantly interrupted. Still it was a good night for viewing although Mount Tamalpais would have been better, maybe will see you up there some night soon. If we stayed any later at Lands End the city police would have made us leave the area for sure.