Friday, October 12, 2012

Jupiter's moons through binoculars

I got quite the thrill in the night sky last night.

A nice, relatively warm night, free from mosquitos, no clouds, no bright moon in the sky. Finally. A perfect night to pull out my new pair of 20x80 binoculars my wife got me for my birthday and check out the stars.

SkyView, a jaw dropping iPhone app good for checking out the night sky, informed me that the big bright light rising overhead was Jupiter. So, I set up the tripod, attached the binoculars, and got ready for my first view of solar system's largest planet. This was the first time I'd had the chance to see Jupiter through the binoculars since I got them.

Seconds after looking through the eyepiece, my heart broke. Sure, Jupiter was huge. Bright. Beautiful! But trailing off up and to the right were three tiny dots of light.; some sort of artifacts or refraction caused by bad or misaligned lenses.

I readjusted the tripod. Fiddled with the focusing rings. The three dots of light were still there.

Then it hit me.

Those tiny dots of light were Jupiter's moons. I'm not smart enough to know what moons they were, but there they were. Three tiny pricks of light, unseen by the naked eye, but readily apparent through the lens.

Another quick check of SkyView confirmed my suspicions. The angle at which the moons extended out from Jupiter was the same angle as the ecliptic, or the path it takes across the sky.

Here's a quick sketch of what I'd seen. The spacing of the moons should not be considered accurate.

Here is a photo I tried to take of Jupiter by pointing my iPhone through one of the binoculars lenses. It's really blurry, and nowhere near as clear or breathtaking as the real view, but you can almost get a hint of two of the moons above and to the right of Jupiter.
I'm actually amazed that I could get ANY photo to even partially turn out using this method. What you see above is NOTHING compared to the beauty of seeing it the planet and it's moons in focus through the binoculars, but it gives enough for one to imagine what it was like.

It really was a breathtaking site to see.

Currently playing: Pink Floyd Astronomy Domine
Currently colouring: Spacepig Hamadeus versus the Spectre General
Proudly in my seventh Cola free year!

1 comment:

Brett Wood said...

Wow, that sounds awesome! Also it makes me wonder if there are binoculars with digital camera abilities.