Observing reports

bwog

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Last night I saw the Andromada (Ughhh, how do you spell it?) Galaxy. But even with binoculars it looked like an extremely faint smudge. What's up with that?

I also saw Jupiter but no moons. And while trying to find the Andromada Galaxy, because I expected it to be more then a faint smudge, I found a star cluster in Cassiopiea (I hate these constellation names... Someone should rename these so people can spell them) about 5 times.
 

george7378

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Last night I saw the Andromada (Ughhh, how do you spell it?) Galaxy. But even with binoculars it looked like an extremely faint smudge. What's up with that?

I also saw Jupiter but no moons. And while trying to find the Andromada Galaxy, because I expected it to be more then a faint smudge, I found a star cluster in Cassiopiea (I hate these constellation names... Someone should rename these so people can spell them) about 5 times.
The Andromeda Galaxy will always look like an elongated smudge - the spiral arms are hidden in the coma of starlight because the galaxy is edge-on almost. That may have been the Double Cluster you found - it really shows some nice colours and star varieties through a telescope.

This is my latest observing report for 7/10/10:

Sights:

- Comet 103/P Hartley
- M31
- M32
- M110
- The Garnet Star
- The stars and dark nebulae of the Milky Way
- Jupiter

Tonight was beautifully clear for the most part, and I thought I would have a go at finding my first comet. I have tried on previous occasions to find Hartley 2 and failed, but tonight, I got a great introduction to comet observing. I found the double cluster first, and explored the path between the clusters and the stars of Cassiopeia, and eventually, my heart leaped as I finally found the fuzzy green ball. As I became more dark adapted, the atmosphere of the comet, thousands of kilometres in diameter, became apparent. It was very close to some reasonably bright reference stars, so I kept checking up on the position every 5 minutes or so, and over the course of the night, the comet moved from one end of the little line of stars to far beyond the other - I couldn't believe how quickly it was moving! While watching it slowly fall across the sky, I couldn't help but wonder how a 'snowball' 1.5KM across could produce such a large coma. I can't believe I finally found it, and it was amazing to see such change in an object over such a short period of time.

The night was beautifully dark, and after spending a little time laying back under the beautifully structured Milky Way with its stream of light and light-year long dark strands of dust, I turned the scope to the noticably ovular smudge of M31. The galaxy was more amazing than I have ever seen it before, with the faint outer arms stretching beyond the field of view, and the beautiful elongated core surrounded by a coma of floating starlight. The two satellite galaxies were fantastic, with both exhibiting evident shape, and the brighter of the two looking distinctly like an egg-shaped oval. I received the streams of million-year old photons feeling elated - seeing such detail through the telescope while standing under such an amazing sky was truly magical.

I also learned about the Garnet Star recently, and after much searching around the dense star fields of the Milky Way, I found the distinct red point. Seeing such an amazing star, which is one of the most luminous known to us and would reach out to Saturn if placed in our solar system, was a though provoking experience. The only thing giving away its powerful secrets was the strong red tint, while the size and shape of the star did not suggest of the amazing power it held. It is also hard to get my head around the amazing distance at which it lies - it is over 5000 light years distant, and yet, it is still a prominent naked-eye star. I'm just glad I can watch from a distance!

Jupiter was also lovely, with a prominent North Equatorial Belt against the glowing disk, with more subtle cloud zones showing through with time. The moons were aligned so that I could see all four, and complemented the scene nicely.

So, the main sight tonight was Comet Hartley, as it provided a fitting introduction to comet observing, and although it was only my first comet, I can safely say that it will be far from my last! More observing experience also seems to be showing me more detail in objects like M31 - I remember my first viewing, which was over a year ago, and how I progressed to spotting the satellite galaxies, and the coma of dimmer starlight surrounding it. Now that I am getting to know the galaxy, it is revealing some of its most subtle and beautiful details to me.
 

tblaxland

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So, the main sight tonight was Comet Hartley, as it provided a fitting introduction to comet observing, and although it was only my first comet, I can safely say that it will be far from my last!
Congrats! My first was Halley, way back when I didn't really appreciate what I was seeing. My most recent was C/2009 R1 in June. 103P/Hartley is currently not visible here but there should be good viewing in November when it heads back south.
 

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A few Weeks ago I had Jupiter in my Telescope and you could see Io, Europa, and I think Callisto (I think My Celestrons motor was acting up so I had to dial it in by hand so I didnt have assistance)
 

george7378

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Last night gave me a mercifully clear spot among the clouds, during which I could observe some of my favourite objects with my new 10 inch telescope.

The first thing I centred on was Jupiter. It was easy to find with the optical finder, and helped me align properly. I first tried it with the 10mm eyepiece @ 120X, and the amazing sharpness of the details just blew me away! I saw the NEB's crisp outline against the light disc, but I was easily able to spot very intricate details such as festoons and boundaries between the light and dark material, and there was even a small 'nick' in the NEB where the light material was cutting into it in the north-east position on Jupiter's disc. As well as this, I could see a faint colouration where the SEB is hiding, and both polar hoods were showing nicely. The south polar zone seemed to have an area of more intense red stretched across it, and I even saw some streaks of red in the SEB's slot. Later on, I watched the great red spot quickly appear and rotate towards the central meridian, and it appeared as a sharply-defined oval cutting into the south polar zone.

Aside from the details on the disc, I saw all four moons, and I swear one of them was glowing bright gold - something I have never seen before. This was probably Io.

So, I saw more on Jupiter last night than I have ever seen in my life, but I didn't focus on this giant planet alone. The first DSO I viewed was the double cluster, which was a fantastic object in my old scope, so you can guess how I responded after seeing it in the 10"! I couldn't believe how many stars filled the field of view, with many peppered around the main cluster as well as a goldmine of bright colours and also fainter stars which I was never able to see with the old scope. Something I like doing is opening both eyes with one looking down the EP and one looking at the scenery around me - I tried it, and the double cluster's star fields were spattered across the hedge and the wall of the house - they all stood out so well even when they were overlayed on the world around me!

I also couldn't resist M31, and when the clouds finally cleared around it, I could see the faint outer regions stretching across the view, which complemented the bright core by giving a real shape to the galaxy. I saw the satellite galaxies as defined ovals too, and the nebulosity of M31 bridged a far larger gap between the objects than ever before, hinting at how much more of the galaxy was visible. I looked at the object from many angles, and I think I also saw a dark dust lane later in the night - it seemed to arc round the core in an oval, and cut through the very diffuse outer regions of the galaxy and disappeared around the front of the core. Trying to entice the details out of this object was very rewarding, and the dark skies at home will be even better at it.

I saw a new galaxy too - the ghost of Mirach. I have never found it before, but as soon as I found Mirach, I could see it - looking very cometary with its elliptical diffuse 'coma'. Mirach and other stars such as Vega and Albireo also showed some beautiful colours, and I was really able to find a lot more double stars than ever before - probably a combination of the light gathering, sharp optics and high magnification.

M33 was quite hard to find, and I think a darker sky is needed to appreciate the details, as it appeared as a rather small glowing mist and it was quite hard to decipher the boundaries of the galaxy, but I appreciate that it is very dim and requires good conditions to see the structure. I can't wait to start exploring the spirals of objects like M33 and M51 when I get a dark sky.

I saw a favourite nebula of mine too - M57. While my previous views of the object were very pleasing, the magnification and light-gathering power of the new scope made it even better. I found it straight away once it was in the field of view, and the sharpness and size of the 'smoke ring' were a great improvement. I was able to use lots more magnification, and the nebula took on a nice ovular shape with the two caps at either end adding to the shape. The centre also showed off some nice faint nebulosity, and I was able to observe without averted vision and see the sharp shape of the outer ring.

I spent the evening flicking between these sights while sitting at the eyepiece until about 22:30, when the clouds rolled in. I really can't wait to see some other planets, especially Saturn, which should give some razor sharp details, especially on the rings. I am also looking forward to observing the previously unavailable intricacies of galaxies with spiral arms and dust lanes.
 

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This morning as I was driving into work I saw a meteor, might have even resulted in a meteorite. It was approximately 0514 eastern time. I was headed out of the pan handle of West Virginia (where I live) to northern Virginia (where I work). Looking at Google earth I was driving about NNE on route 9 (winding over the blueridge mountains, around 39-14.867N 77-46.013W) the elevation of the road at that point is about 900ft with the mountain top ridge at about 1100 ft elevation a quarter mile SSW. I saw something bright in my peripheral vision (to the NW) and turned to see a fast moving glowing/flaming object streaking across the sky roughly parallel to my path. the reason I listed the altitude is the meteor was approximately 10 degrees above my line of sight, really low! It appeared about the size of a thumbnail on an outstretched arm. The flame trail must have been miles long. There was no way to accurately judge how far away it was, but I'd guess less than a mile, it covered 90 degrees of my vision (before going behind the tree line) in about a second. The object itself was glowing white with a slight green tinge, the flame trail was similar but far more green.

This was one of the most impressive sights I've seen. I have seen Perseid meteors before and thought the little streaks of light were cool, but this was like something out of a movie. I'd love to try to track down where it hit, but I have no idea where to even start on a quest like that :)
 

george7378

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24/02/11

Sights:


- Saturn
- M3 (Globular)
- M81/M82 (Galaxies)
- M42
- M51
- ISS
- Double Cluster
- NGC 2655 (No Supernova any more)

The evening started with some satellites. I tried to see NanoSail-D first, but I don't think I did. Instead, I saw an erratic flashing satellite, which I think was Iridium 17. See here.

The ISS came over at about 19:20, and I tried to take some video through the scope. My efforts did not yield much - just a few frames which show some reasonable detail. Here they are - I think it was out of focus though:

Slightly blurred ISS | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Turning to NGC 2655, I could see the same star patterns as before, and I also saw the faint, round galaxy sitting in exactly the same place, but the SN was gone from my field of view. I am guessing that it has either completely disappeared, or has left the limiting magnitude of my scope. It was quite interesting to return, and see that the heavens aren't that constant after all!

The Double Cluster hasn't been viewed by me in a long time, but it was very nice to return and view it at low magnification see the different colours of the stars. There was a layer of high-altitude cloud which blocked it out slightly.

After observing some of my favourite galaxies, I waited for the cloud to clear for Saturn to come out. When I finally saw it for the first time with my new scope - I couldn't believe my eyes! I could get the magnification up to 240X and see amazing details such as banding on the clouds, and even the area where the planet cast its shadow on the rings! The rings themselves were unreal - so sharp and thin at the edges, and yet so vast when you look at how they curve perfectly round the planet. I was amazed at the improvemet over my old scope, and I just couldn't stop looking at the fabulous perfection , and the real 3D feel that the rings give to the planet. The area where the rings crossed in front of the planet was really well contrasted against the disk, and there were some moons visible too. It was about 01:00 when I finally went to bed, but I can't wait to get another look at the planet.

I was also able to get a good look at M51 at the time, and I saw the best view I have ever had of it. It was very high up when I looked, and I could easily see the two spiral arms with averted vision, even at 120X. When I didn't use averted vision, I could see a glowing haze with some noticeable structure surrounding the brighter core. I will spend a lot more time studying this galaxy when it is more favourably placed.

Finally, I looked at my first globular cluster with the 10" scope - M3. I couldn't believe the improvement over the SW130 - it was just beyond description! I staryed at 48X, and could see a very bright glowing haze with lots of tiny little pinpoints of light hanging around it - like little pin-sharp diamonds in a pool of light. I immediately went up to 120X, and could then see even more of these magically distant points of light, right into the core. I was amazed that I could resolve individual stars in this tiny little mini-galaxy, even though it was probably tens of thousands of lightyears away. The stars in the cluster looked a lot 'smaller' than the foreground milky way stars - I could immediately see that they were a lot more distant (they just looked tiny) - is this just an illusion? I suppose it is, as we see all stars as points of light. I think globulars are my new favourite DSOs - I have never seen individual stars in them before!

In short, there are a lot more things I want to see with my 10" scope, after getting this taster tonight.
 

george7378

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The weather was a little hazy, but I got some nice viewing before the clouds came in.

I started by looking at random areas of the constellation Leo, in the hope of finding some galaxies. I was obviously looking in the wrong place, because I only saw stars! I got some nice doubles, and there were some interesting looks formations and asterisms.

Saturn: The planet was especially steady tonight, and I directly saw the Cassini division when the air was still enough. I could also direcly observe some amazing cloud features in the northern hemisphere - most notably, a large dark band of brown/yellow cloud conpletely circling the northern hemisphere. There was also a nice line of moons, and I could see the area where the planet cast a shadow on the rings.

M81/M82: I look at these galaxies nearly every session, and tonight, they didn't disappoint. I saw a dark mottling all along the line of M82, and observed it at 240X magnification. M81 showed a nice symmetrical oval with some notable outer haze. I love how they are constantly hanging in suspended collision in the eyepiece - I could even see the lovely shapes and positions of the galaxies through the finderscope. An owl kept hooting as I observed them - it was quite a nice ambience - sounds of life on Earth mixed with the amazing sight of two colliding island universes. I showed my Mum who happened to be outside at the time, and she couldn't believe the clarity and shape of the structures (she has only previously had a little look at M31 through an SW-130 - there's quite a difference!)

M3: It took me a while to find this cluster tonight, but I eventually saw the glowing jewel-box enter the field of view. I could immediately see some stars hanging around in its halo, and increased the magnification to about 240X to see the wondrous cluster in all its splendour. At this magnification, I could see individual stars right into the core, and didn't even need to use averted vision. I once again noticed that the stars of the cluster somehow look much farther off than the fireground stars - I wonder what the night sky must look like from right in the middle, with over 100 stars in a 1 light-year cube?

I only really spent time observing these objects tonight - I was planning to start a sketch, but the clouds rolled in before I could! I did, however, view an unknown galaxy and an unknown globular cluster when I was panning around in the region under Coma Berenices and to the left of Leo. The galaxy was quite a bright spiral with a very defined core and some surrounding nebulosity, and the globular was slightly dimmer than M3, and was a little more tightly packed, but I could still see individual stars nearly into the core. Globular clusters are so fascinating - little tiny glowing balls of light that look so strange against the dark sky...

That's about it - I may also have seen a meteor travelling through my EP - it seemed too fast for a satellite, and I didn't see anything when I looked up - it was going from left to right when I was looking in the Leo region. It was a fabulous night - one where you just spend ages staring and staring at the same object, and with Saturn, M3 and my favourite galaxy pair on show, I had plenty to look at.
 

george7378

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Thanks :) It's not that hard when you have such amazing sights to describe - it really does look beautiful.
 

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Yes, the sky really does look beautiful. I agree whole-heartedly with you on that. But turning all that into captivating words that get the beauty across to the reader (especially if it's someone living in light-rich cities/areas with little or no real night-sky watching experience) is not always so easy. But you do it great. In fact I've just invested in a spotting scope myself because I'm so fascinated with the threads/pictures/talk about the night-sky going on here in this part of the forum (and many of your pictures in particular, including the amazing earth-scenery shots you have. You got a good eye for that). I'm still waiting for my T-adaptor for my camera though, but when I get that I hope to be able to get some pictures that would get me closer to participation in the art-form of sky-capture :) (I've only done video of the sky so far, with a normal handycam (like when I accidentally got a shot of a sun-spot last year through clouds), but not actual photos with larger lenses and better equipment (well, actually I once got a photo of mercury reflected on a piece of cardboard through a pair of handheld binoculars as it moved across the sun some years ago, I think technically it would be called a Mercury eclipse or sun eclipse by Mercury. That was not a telescope picture though, but very interesting for me to do none the less)). If I get some good stuff out of the spotting scope I might eventually go all the way and get myself a telescope and equitorial mount and computer-control and the whole package (step by step ofcourse, it's all very expensive).
I guess it's your passion that shines through when you post on these issues, and I'm certainly enjoying it and I learn a lot from the talk about telescopes that you and others have here :)
Well, I hope I'll have some pictures to post myself soon.
 

fireballs619

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May 4th, 2011


Sights
Castor
Pollux
Polaris
Saturn

The clouds were finally sparse enough tonight to finally get out with my telescope, so that is what I did. Being my first time out, I didn't really know what I was doing, so I went out arounf 20:30 local time, which I had deemed to be dark enough. First order of business was to align my telescope (Nexstar 130 SLT), so I spotted a bright star through the finderscope. Unfortunately, my finderscope wasn't quite lined up with what I was seeing through the eye piece, so I spent the better part of the next 30 minutes sighting the star through the eyepiece, and adjusting the finderscope.

Once I got that sorted out, I tried the alignment program on the telescope by sighting three stars and calibrating, but that failed twice. I proceeded to turn west and look at what I knew to be Castor, and used that and two others in the alignment. Once aligned, I had the telescope turn towards Saturn, which was just visible over my house. I was completely blown away by the clarity of the image, even with the low power eyepieces that I was using. I think (possibly) I even saw one of Saturn's moons in transit, although the detail wasn't quite enough to be sure. I spent a good 15 minutes looking at Saturn before I decided to turn to Polaris, just for the sake of doing so. As it was, the cloud cover got denser as I was viewing Polaris, so I had to call it quits for th e night.

All in all, it was a good night for stargazing, despite some technical difficulties early on. I'm hoping the rest of the week is clear enough to go out, although the forecast is not looking friendly.
 

tblaxland

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It has been a while since I got the scope out I eventually managed it last week. The Moon was very bright and there was a reasonable amount of light pollution so I decided to forego trying to finding anything further away than the Moon:
Date: 2011-05-12
Time: Approx 1900 – 2000 +1000
Sun Altitude: approx -30°
Target: Moon
Longitude of terminator: approx. -25° (65 % illumination)
Notes:
There was good low sun illumination of the mare ridges on Mare Ibrium in the vicinity of crater Lambert. The floor of crater Copernicus was approximately half shadowed and the central peak was readily visible near edge of the shadow on the floor. There were good views of craters Bullialdus, Bullialdus A, Bullialdus B, and Konig but the shadows were too deep to observe any central peak. The south polar region was looking particular rough and craters of note were Wilhelm, Tycho, Longomontanus, and Clavius.​
And the other morning I got up to view the early morning conjunction:
Date: 2011-05-18
Time: Approx 0600 +1000
Sun Altitude: -9°
Targets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Juptier
Notes:
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter were readily visible in an approximate right angle triangle with Venus and Mercury at the base 1-2° apart and Jupiter above about 5° away. Mars was just barely visible through the twilight about 3° below Venus and it quickly became indiscernible. Next conjunction is Venus/Mars on 2011-05-24 at 1° separation.​
 

fireballs619

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August 26, 2011- 22:30-0:00

Sights
Jupiter and Galilean moons
M31

I had a chance to go out to my secondary viewing site yesterday, which is about 45 minutes to an hour away. Being this far, the sky is a lot darker than it usually is when I view, and thus I took the opportunity to try to catch a sight of some DSOs.

I initially set up and intended to try to spot M109, since it is a relatively easy one to find. Once I noticed Jupiter was high enough to get a good view, however, I quickly forgot about M109 :lol:. I'd never seen Jupiter through a telescope before, so it was quite an exciting event. Even better, I had just gotten my new lenses, so I went wild with viewing. I got the best size/clarity tradeoff with the 6 mm, with which I was able to see the bands of gas on the planets, as well as the four Galilean moons. Since I wasn't able to take pictures, here's a drawing of what I saw :p



Of course, this is a mirror image of what it would actually be, due to me having a reflector scope. I've identified the moons to the best of my knowledge, but I was a bit thrown off by the object labeled '?'. That's about it's relative location to the others, but it was much dimmer. Perhaps a background star? Or a different moon? Any help on that point?

After looking at Jupiter with a plethora of different lenses and filters, I finally turned towards M31, which was initially hard to find. Once I did find it, however, it was well worth the search. It was clearly a galaxy, as evidenced by it's fuzzy blob like appearance in comparison to surrounding stars. I tried out different magnifications while looking at it, but I found that my 32mm lens gave the best image. The other higher power ones made the image almost too faint to discern.

By that time, it was nearing 0:00 hours, so I called it quits and headed back home, and then slept in very late :lol:
 

george7378

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I have been observing as normal for the last months, but for some reason didn't write up reports! Anyway, I have started again, and here's one for the

27th August 2011, 20:40 - 23:10

I started by rushing outside to see the ISS after sunset. The sky was still quite cloudy at this time, and I first spotted it coming out of the yellow evening sky at mag. -2.7. I watched it cross over the roof and the trees, until it peaked in the velvet blue area of the sky which was already showing some bright stars. It faded as it slowly approached the horizon.

After this, I got the scope out as the skies were starting to clear up. When I was set up, I sat down and aimed the scope at the lovely compact constellation of Sagitta, and didn't have to look twice to see the Comet Garradd, which showed easily, even in the evening sky. I was pleased to see that the comet was sitting next to a compact little cluster of stars (I don't think it has a designation - I'll call it Garradd's Cluster) which proved a fantastic aid to tracking its movements as the night got darker and darker. It was practically on top of a dim star, which the nucleus and round coma seemed to glide past. At the end of the night when the clouds rolled in again, it was practically on top of 'Garradd's Cluster' giving the impression that it was a nebulous open cluster. I can't wait for it to fly past the Coathanger Cluster later on! This is the third time I've seen the comet.

I've explored Sagitta quite a lot, and I was suprised to come across the globular cluster M71, which I had missed all the other times! It is quite dim, and I thought that it looked more like an open cluster. It showed individual stars through the 10" scope, but I couldn't really tell the core from the halo. Glad to have finally seen this cluster before it slipped away for another year!

I couldn't miss out the Dumbbell Nebula while I was there, and I could even see it as a comet-like circular patch of light through the finderscope. It was beautiful and bright through the scope, showing off its familiar apple-core shape nicely. I could see the main shape of the nebula, and some lobes of secondary nebulosity protruding from the 'bitten' areas of the apple. When the nebula looks this bright and clear, it makes me wonder why there isn't any of that lovely colour visible!

I also couldn't resist swinging round to M31, which was easily visible to the naked eye. Its familiar shape, along with the bright egg-shaped satellite galaxy closest to it, stood out like a dream - the light from 400 billion stars hitting my eye all at once while I just sat still in the quiet garden made me feel quite special. Seeing the two delicate dust lanes of the galaxy, and then looking up to see the massive Cygnus Rift stretching over my head reminded me that our home would look very similar from out there.

Finally, I saw something I never would have thought that I would be able to see outside of astro-photos. I explored the regions around Cygnus' wings, and came across the little river of light I later found out was the Veil Nebula - a colourful band in the many photos that have been taken of it. It was very delicate and beautiful - it just looked like a silky lake of light acrhing right across the view - I looked at it from all angles for a while, and saw that I could even pick out some horizontal mottling in the stream - just like in the photos! I feel like a better astronomer for bagging this more advanced nebula with my own eyes, and I will DEFINITELY be coming back to see that supernova remnant again!

I saw some bright meteors too, one of which left a bright ion trail. A few satellites flared and flashed too.

Thanks for reading!
 

DanM

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I went out for an ISS pass last night. Not a very bright one, only -1.4. Then I got out my telescope and viewed Jupiter, the Moon, Mars and Saturn.

The Moon was especially nice, I was able to see so many of the features because of the shadows.
 

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Got the telescope out for the first time since years (almost forgot I already had one), after sunset. Mostly targeted the Moon where I took some pics, but was able to see Mars, but only as a dot. (My telescope is a very basic one, no automatic targeting, autocorrection for Earth rotation, just a visor and the mirrors; so I was not able to precisely aim for it and change optics).
There was wind too, and that had its impact on the telescope which made everything shake inside, even with small speeds (> 1 m/s). But, I saw a red pea, and that made my night.

I missed these observations with it. Might take a new one if Life(tm) and Chance(tm) is with me.
 

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Very nice Saturn tonight, although only Titan is visible due to moonlight.
 

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Saw Saturn and its rings for the first time since years yesterday. I'm sure I was even more excited than I remember :lol:
But yeah, although she was tiny, you could clearly see the space between the planet and the rings, but the rings appeared kind of "united" together, I couldn't differentiate any of the Rings.
I tried switching to a bigger magnification, but the clouds in the way resulted of Saturn being blurred.

I saw Mars too. I mean, a little red pea that seemed to have white on the South pole, but I couldn't zoom more because of the same clouds (I'd say 7/10 on the weather).
 

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Somehow, both Titan and Rhea are visible today for me, despite slightly worse weather than yesterday.
 
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