Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spectacular Saturn!

Last night I returned home from Ian's little league game at 9:40, ate some dinner, and at 10:15 PM  took a look outside.  I noticed that things appeared very steady so despite the rising, nearly full moon decided to take a look at Saturn.  This is the great thing about a home set up!  Simply head outside, roll back the roof and start observing.

When astronomers refer to "seeing" conditions, they are referring to the steadiness of the atmosphere.  A steady atmosphere allows for higher power critical observation of fine detail, especially when splitting double stars or observing planets.  Last night, I estimate that the seeing was as close to 10/10 as it gets at my house.  Using the 12 inch LX-200 SCT, I started with a 13mm eyepiece and only looked for a second before inserting the 8mm Ethos into the scope (about 381x)...the image was rock steady!  The planet displayed excellent contrast, with the rings shadow looking like a razor sharp inky black line.  Cloud banding was evident and the polar shading was a nice blue/gray.  The Cassini division was a sharply defined gap and even the elusive C ring was easily visible inside both ends of the rings...After about 15 minutes I thought I should try and use "stupid high power" (another technical astronomy term) so I inserted a 5mm Pentax XW (yes, that is 610x!!) and while the image was a bit softer, I was still able to detect the same level of detail every few seconds.  Call me crazy, but Saturn's largest moon Titan looked to be a distinct disc.  It was so amazing I actually dragged Beth out of bed to take a look and even she was impressed.  While I am not a good enough sketch artist to represent Saturn, the simulated image at left is very similar to what was in the eyepiece.


  1. I didn´t know that you have access to the Cassini orbiter.

    Great image, Alan!

  2. Thanks realize it is a simulation, not an actual image right? It does represent how great Saturn looked last night though...