University Lowbrow Astronomers

Two Great Viewing Treats With Jupiter!

by Harry L. Juday
Printed in Reflections: April, 2002.

I know that all of you have many favorite viewing memories.  Who can ever forget their first view of Saturn through a decent sized telescope?  I just couldn’t stop looking on mine.

But two of my favorite viewing experience occurred with Jupiter.

On the night of Oct. 12, 1999 the “seeing” conditions were probably the best I have ever experienced.

I wheeled my still then new to me 18” Dobs out to my usual viewing site, about 50 feet from my garage door, with a great, down to the distant trees, view from SE to SW and good viewing everywhere else except NE to SE (Ann Arbor, through the Detroit Metroplex and a bit of sky glow from Saline).  The scope is an AstroSystems kit with Galaxy mirrors that a friend from the Ford club had masterfully constructed, only to decide that it was too big to keep hauling around and as his home skies were in the middle of a city, he could not really use it there.

I, unfortunately do not have much in the way of weather conditions or time data for this event, but it was a 3 day old Moon (looked it up), and as I remember, very pleasant out.

I checked collimation and spotter scope centering (sometimes the collimation shifts a bit as I wheel the scope in and out of the garage, due to the mirror being held in a sling).

Jupiter was well up.  I put in my 9mm Nagler (229x) and slewed the scope to it, my eyes nearly popped out of my head.  The clarity of the view was breathtaking.  I view the planets every chance I get, but this was like nothing I had ever seen.  The major bands were extremely well defined and showed swirling features that I had never viewed before.  The great Red Spot was clearly visible with a white space surrounding it and a noticeable darkening of the major band where it was indented around it.  There was detail between the major bands, with what appeared as swirling and streaking lines visible.  There was one complete narrow band and two partial band below (scope view, UD&BW ) the one major band and a complete narrow band, bulged out around the GRS above the other.  The rest of the planet was slightly darkened, as if it were in shadow.

After quite a while of viewing, I knew that this was so spectacular that I somehow had to record it.  I got out some 8 1/2” x 11” note paper and started sketching.  I spent the next couple of hours viewing and sketching.  I sketched a 5 1/2” dia. circle with all of the detail that I could see.  It is kind of crude by most standards, but every time I look at it, it brings back that great sight, one which I have not experienced since, nor do I really expect to from here.  Arizona maybe.  Someday.

I didn’t even bother to look at anything else that night.  I had savored a wonderful sight, and I was grateful.

My second “GREAT JUPITER VIEWING EVENT” happened on the night of the 29th/30th of September, 2000.

The same location, but the conditions were not even close to the first one.  At 10:00PM it was 45dF, with very light to calm winds from the S, 75% humidity and the sky was slightly hazy.  The evening started out with the air fairly steady, I could split the double-double at 147x, but M13 was not crisp at a higher power.  The wonderful Jet Stream was probably parked overhead, as usual, and creating turbulence that becomes quite evident in the 18”.  I viewed a few NGC’s, noting NGC 7789 in Cas., but the wind was picking up a bit and the seeing seemed to be deteriorating.

I hadn’t bothered to look at the planets, as I figured they would not be very sharp, due to the seeing conditions.  About 2:45 AM on the 30th, I finally slewed to Jupiter, not expecting to see much.  I looked, and did a double take.

Right in the middle of the major bands, on the right limb (scope view), was a bright point of light.  Either Jupiter was occulting a large star, or one of its Moons, or a Moon was rising.  I quickly ruled out the star occultation idea as I subscribe to all of the S&T Astro-Alerts, and nothing had been mentioned.

I had put in the 9mm (299x), and the view was not sharp.  I quickly stepped down to my 14mm Radian (147x) and got a better view.  Io (I looked it up later), was rising right between the 2 major bands.  I was spell bound.  I watched for about an hour, until it was well clear of Jupiter’s horizon.  Even though the seeing was rather poor, it was a sight that I will not soon forget.  Perhaps many of you have had the same experience in your many years of viewing.  I imagine the opportunity to see one of Jupiter’s Moons rise from, or set behind the planet occurs fairly often, (I am sure someone in the club can tell me how many times each year), but for me it was a first, that I hope to repeat.  It makes for some great viewing.

My only regret was that I was not able to photograph, or better yet, video it.  What a great video that would have made, poor seeing and all.


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This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
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