Posted by: norstarnewengland | April 8, 2009

Star Gazing in February and March

At a local nature sanctuary, I attended two star gazing events, one on February 15, and the other on March 21.  There’s a dedicated group that have telescopes set up, and people drop by to look and talk with them.

Though the dates are set months in advance, it almost seemed that the dates were chosen on the coldest days of the month.  In February, there was at least six inches of crusted snow on the ground.  It was decided that instead of setting up in the normal location in the pasture, the scopes were set up next to the visitor center.  Good thing, too.  The temperature was in the mid 20s and dropping.  At one point, I had to walk into the building to warm up.  Many things were seen, including Saturn, which was in position with Leo.  The rings were nearly edge on.  Thus, Saturn looked like a ball on a stick.  Some of the moons were visible as well.

Saturn in a telescope

Saturn in a telescope

A few days later, at home, I had a glimpse of Comet Lulin in Leo, near Saturn.  Where I live, the sky is not very dark.  In binuculars, the comet was visible with averted view.  To the average person, it might not be exciting, but I was happy to peg it.

In March, there was a second star gathering.  This time, everyone was back at the pasture.  The snow had disappeared in the open areas, yet the ground had not yet unfrozen.  Again, plenty of telescopes were set up and lots of things were seen (no pictures this time).  I saw a few galaxies, nebulas, and globular clusters.  In a sizable telescope, the Orion nebula had such detail and almost looked three dimensional.  It was not quite as cold as in February, but I still was chilled by the time the event was over.  The seeing was considered very good by the observers, though I still had trouble seeing the fainter stars of the Little Dipper.

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