By Ray Kaville
Silver Sands State Park, Milford
April 8,2016 @ 7:30p.m.
Temperature @ 45 with winds constant around 20mph
Contrary to the Clear Sky Chart, skies were mostly cloudy with periodic “sucker holes”
Jupiter was a beacon high in the southern sky, burning through the heavy clouds at points and opening up in gaps in the clouds at others. As the sun set in the west a red/orange/purpleish spire erupted brightening the horizon and progressing to a huge sun dog which ended up looking like a massive laser burning through the heavy clouds. This spire spread along lighting the horizon to the east and eventually fading.
Around 8pm Laurie and Jim arrived from parts far to the east just about when the winds died down. Of the many people who were speeding in and out of the park for who knows what reason, we only had one or two people curious about why we were there. About 8:45 the skies were no better so Greg contacted the park ranger and cancelled the event. For those who’ve been there in these conditions you are aware of the kind of sky it was. It usually doesn’t get much better until after 9 or 10 pm anyway.
After a stop for coffee and spending some time perusing my periodicals it was nice to re-check the latest list of sky objects in our most recent “Shooting Star” newsletter. For those who have not seen this page yet, this is a great tool for observing. It’s a fairly comprehensive listing of some very nice seasonal objects with tips on where to find them and how to view them. Many objects I never thought about. Very helpful, and a good tool for our public outreach events or just taking a quick look.
Arriving home around 10:30 the unload began. As I was lugging all the heavy gear back into the house, the skies had cleared in Hamden to where they were pretty decent. Still overcast, but many of the lesser stars were visible along with the brightest. Of course there were so many questions popping up during the unloading process such as what that fuzzy spot was and what stars are missing in those blank areas that really should have had stars.
Not being able to resist spending just a little time outside I broke out my recent CSP prize Orion binocs and panned around the tree lines working upward. Very close in was the Praesepe (Beehive) cluster. Always a wonderful surprise. Panning back towards the big dipper (standing on its end) right between Alkaid and Denebola in Leo, my gaze fell across as lovely an open cluster of stars as you could imagine. Right in the middle of Coma Berenicies. It was just so lovely and long that you were forced to pan across it several times, then come back later for another look. I grabbed a quick look at Pollux and I believe I did see the companion, but even with 10x binocs it could have been my shaky hands. Arcturus was brilliant. Sirius was in the trees, but still very bright. Jupiter with two or three of it’s moons visible (again shaky hands and too lazy to find a solid mount) was exciting as ever. Beginning to wane from exhaustion I called it a night around 11:05 and headed in.
So went another short session where I remember how grateful I am for all my astro buddies and my astro hobby. It’s sad that some people have no idea what wonders lie in the evening skies, and gratifying that we can share these things with our friends and family to enrich all of our lives. I’m never bored in the dark (but I used to be!).
Using Astronomical Filters
Here is a link to an informative and useful resource on the use of different filters with your telescope, both for the planets and for deep-sky objects: