I unpacked my telescope this evening and re-read the instructions for polar mounting it to my tripod. Tonight I anticipated the first clear skies in weeks and Saturn made it’s yearly debut in opposition to the Sun. Basically, the Earth is between the Sun and Saturn and for the first time in a couple of years, Saturn’s rings are not ‘on edge’ to us.
Once I re-familiarized myself with my telescope, I took it out front of my house (east side) and used the tips in the article ‘Give me five minutes, and I’ll give you Saturn in April 2011’ to quickly locate Saturn in the eastern sky. Using the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle, I found the bright star Arcturus. Then, I drew an imaginary line (from left to right) from Arcturus to Spica. Almost directly above Spica, was a bright object which I guessed was Saturn.
Even though that section of the sky has the most light pollution (because Lansing, Kansas is 25 miles northwest of the Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan area and I’m also about ten miles west of KCI airport) and a few wispy clouds remained, I easily found Saturn. Terry came out and took a look for a few minutes.
Since I polar mounted my telescope, I decided to try again to use the Autostar tracking device to align, find and track Saturn. The gears still slip and have slack in them, but I don’t have any alternatives, since a call to Meade a couple of weeks ago proved disappointing. Contrary to what I was told last fall, Meade will no longer repair the model I own. They will, of course, sell me a refurbished one for $400.
Anyway, I was too close to the house to do a proper alignment on two stars, but when I told the Autostar to find Saturn, it did get within five or ten degrees of it. Once I got in the neighborhood, I fine-tuned and center Saturn in the eyepiece and set the telescope to autotrack while I had fun observing the rings of Saturn and one of it’s moons (Titan I think). I used a variety of eyepieces, down to a 7mm.
I hope it stays clear the rest of the weekend so I can see the slimmest crescent moon yet (tomorrow morning), Venus and maybe even Mercury (something I’ve yet to see). And of course, Saturn.
I also need to remember to mail off my membership application to the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. Then I can foray down south of Kansas City and use a larger telescope at the Powell Observatory.
Keep looking up!