Planets at the Grand Canyon Star Party

by Jane Houston Jones

Just a short observing report of the planets. Someone had their astro music going after the public left one night. First tune I heard was one of Holst's planets and I don't mean Pluto. My Holst musical review/observing report is in the archives, here :-) /tac.mailing.list/2001/July/0529.html

And speaking of Uranus, on June 26th I sketched the field around Uranus, after hearing some other observers say they had spotted some moons. I checked my sketch the next day using Sky Map Pro 9, and I had 4 of the moons, Oberon, Miranda, Umbrial and Titania (plus one star) in the right places. 17.5-inch reflector, 333x using a 6 Radian.

We had a farewell view of Jupiter, and an early view of Mars to start and end each observing night. Seeing came and went at 2:00 a.m. when Mars cleared the trees. I made one nice sketch showing the SPC, and dark features Mares Simmerium and Sirenum, and lighter Electris and Phaethontis. I didn't think the seeing or our collection of light bucket telescopes warranted too much Mars time. Well, except in Mojo's 14.5 inch scope with his nice Nova mirror - that was the scope for Mars views, of the ones we brought with us on this trip.

But Pluto was the object I observed every night (except one), and frequently showed it to visitors. It was so much fun to watch the movement of the little planet. It moved a full eyepiece field from its position last month against background stars forming a mini-backwards Delphinus asterism. For the visitors, I started at the dolphin's magnitude 13 and 14 stars to set the expectation of how faint Pluto would appear. Then I proceeded to starhop to its current location, next to triangles next to other triangles and finally to its positon inside a squashed box comprised of 11th magnitude Tycho 5656-625-1, 589-1, 342-1 and 542-1on Saturday the 28th.

One amazing bolide punctuated the sky at 2:48 a.m. on 6/26, just as I was sketching Mars. The green persistent train traveled south in Perseus. Everyone whooped and hollered, and we all aimed our binoculars or telescopes at it. I saw a corkscrew shaped persistent train in the eyepiece. 30 minutes later it was still visible! Next afternoon at the group pasta feed, it was the main topic of conversation for those of us who were still up to see it and those who missed it. That's one of the great fun things about group star parties - sharing those special amazing moments with friends new and old.

ObserverJane Houston Jones
DateJune 22-28, 2003
LocationYavapai Point, Grand Canyon National Park 36 04' 12" N , 112 degrees 07' 12" W Altitude 7040 ft.
Instruments17.5-inch f/4.5 Litebox reflector, Orion 80mm reflector used as a finderscope, Telrad
Oculars6mm Radian (333x), 9mm (222x) and 16mm (125x) Naglers in Litebox 17.5-inch. 25mm (16x) Kellner with cross-hair in 80mm Orion short tube finder
Seeingexcellent to good. Humidity less than 20 percent all week
TransparencyLM 6.0 to 6.6 using LM Area 16. The last night had some cirrus obscuring Ophiuchus (and Pluto) some of the time