by Jane Houston Jones
After a week of rain and clouds here on the California coast, the stars came out last night and so did the telescope. As Nat King Cole's version of the Glenn Miller classic A Handful of Stars wafted through the air we took turns observing at 300x (Zeiss Abbe Orthos and Zeiss barlow+binoviewer) though our f/9 AP180EDT.
I hummed along with the lyrics as I aimed the telescope at the moon:
... With moonlight through the trees like silver balls
And as the moon grew older
I reached across your shoulder
And gathered you a handful of stars
I started out searching for romantically themed lunar objects visible on this 11-day old waxing moon, like the diamond-ring shaped Gassendi and Gassendi A - Rukl 52, but the terminator was more interesting. :-)
Rukl 2 - J. Herschel showed curvature on the floor of the great walled plain.
Rukl 18 - Vallis Schroteri and environs were just unbeliveably awesome last night. And through the Zeiss Abbe Ortho/ binoviewer combo the contrast between black valley, many hues of gray mountains and lighter Aristarchus, well, it was hard to tear away and try another Rukl page. Montes Agricola was amazingly contrasty too, with white dots as sunlight hit the peaks of the long mountains. Rima Marius was also a stark contrast of crisp black on grey. I was alternating between eyepiece views andastronomy club newsletter editing and Dave North's article this month was about eyepieces for lunar observing, so it was fun to read his comments and then observe through some of the eyepieces he talks about.
Rukl 29 - Rima Suess and Marius - with good seeing and the right night like last night, the the domes surrounding Marius were visible, and I could spot the small crater on the floor of Marius. The ejecta from Kepler spattered the area. Encke was fully lit.
Rukl 51 - Mersenius has a convex floor and a lineup of craters on the crater floor made a face -with eyes and a long nose. I liked the view of Liebig, B and C, a triple crater. A little crater called Palmieri was on the terminator, a teardrop pool of lunar darkness. This area is worth more time on another night!
Rukl 62 - the highlight of the night for me - Schickard, Wargentin, Nasmyth and Phocylides made an atractive display on the terminator. It looked like a dam lite by white lights kept Wargentin (on Rukl 70) from spilling into Nasmyth. Phocylides was mostly still in shadow.
Taking hold of the controller, I toured the limb, and enjoyed Mare Australe (Rukl 69) on the south eastern limb. I could see all sorts of detail over there.
About this time, midnight, Mojo took over the controls for some Jupiter viewing. The seeing just got better and better. But the first target of the evening was Saturn and it was just unbelievable. Most amazing was the lovely golden color of the whole surface - a deep honey hue to my eyes. The South Polar Region was so obvious it was like an arrow pointed to it so you wouldn't miss it. It was sharp and distinct, moreso than I usually recall. I don't see any particular color other than a darker shade of honey gold here, but it was amazing. I noticed a lot of shading in the B-ring ansae area as I have before through the big refractor. The planet shone through nicely - a gauzy light grey - through the C-ring. In fact it was way more prominent there with the planet glowing through than any other spot of this ring. We didn't crank up the power, 300x was as high as we went. We were just happy to have a clear night and some nice objects to observe after a rainy week.
Well, it was time to put the refractor away, which takes some time. And I recalled the ending lyrics the song A Handful of Stars.
...And Venus seemed to melt right into Mars
Then while we stood caressing
Blue heaven sent a blessing
A shower of a handful of stars...