University Lowbrow Astronomers

A Beginning Amateur Astronomer Part 2.

by George W Ferrier
Printed in Reflections: March, 2008.

After starting out with only myself just looking at the Night Skies, I was able to get two of the neighborhood children to view with me, and I was able to show them M42, the Pleiades and Mars. I now have five to seven neighbors viewing with me; they range in age from 8 to 23 years old. We had a new family move in the neighborhood, but have not had a chance to talk with them as of yet. I know they have at least 2 children. One of the Gentleman who has been doing some viewing with us brought a friend and he has a 9x63 Binoculars and we have been using them to do some viewing at Arbor Oaks Park which is on Champaign between our House and Bryandt School and we can see ORION quite clearly. I have started a project of Tracking Mars as it transits thru GEMINI, but because of the Sky Conditions, I have only 6 Viewing nights since November 18th. Sometimes the sky will be clear at 7:00 P.M. and until about 8:45 P.M. and we are able to view faint objects by “Sweeping the Sky”.

As I stated previously I have been tracking Mars and sometimes I can only see 5 or 6 Stars of GEMINI, but most of the time I can only see 3 to 4 Stars. On December 5th I observed Mars just past Mebusta (which I learned from Mr. Deprest), then on December 12th to my AMAZEMENT plus adding to my confusion and frustration of understanding the Stars and Planets, after returning from Dinner with my Wife Patricia at 8:00 P.M. I noticed that the sky was clear, but I could only make out a few stars. I could only see Pollux, Castor, Gamma Geminorum and also Procyon of Canis Minor. I then noticed Mars which was at about a 3.0 magnitude, but to my surprise it was BELOW GEMINI and just above Canis Minor. And I cannot understand this. I have not been able to do any viewing lately because of the Weather so I was not able to plot Mars at these times. The last time I Observed Mars on December 5th Mars just passed Mebsuta and then on the 12th it was below GEMINI.

Here are some of my Observations:

December 3, 2007 7:45 P.M.—I was able to view for a short period tonight and Mars was just above Mebsuta. I could only see 4 Stars of GEMINI and also could not see ORION.

December 5, 2007 6:45 A.M. & 8:00 P.M.—On Wednesday morning I was able to view a Triangle formed by The Moon, Spica & Venus. At 8:00 P.M. I observed Mars which was just passing Mebsuta and I was again unable to view GEMINI.

December 17, 2007 6:45 P.M.—Finally a clear night. I observed the ISS passing NW to NNW at about 23° for 1 minute, at 7:10 P.M. I could view Mars which was only 23° above the Horizon but not any Constellations.

December 18, 2007 9:45 P.M.—I cannot believe it two clear nights. Mars, GEMINI and ORION both cleared the horizon, and Mars was 25 above Mebsuta and straight up from Betelgeuse. I looked again at GEMINI at 11:00 P.M. and noticed that Mars was almost straight overhead.

December 23, 2007 6:35 P.M.—Another Partly Cloudy Night, but I could see Mars which was 1° below and left of The Waxing Gibbons Moon.

December 26, 2007 11:20 P.M.—A clear cloudless night with GOOD CLEAR Viability. Mars was just about overhead and really bright, if Betelgeuse is a -1 magnification then Mars would be a -2. Mars, Rigel and n (Eta) formed a Triangle and Mars was also straight up from Betelgeuse. The Moon was just below Betelgeuse but its glow did not interfere with my viewing. I was also thrilled to observe the ORION Nebula (M42 & M43) which was quite clear and distinct and The Pleiades. I could make out six Stars in Pleiades which did look like the Little Dipper but with a faint star above (?). I was also able to observe 3 distinct fuzzy Haloes one-above-the-other in ORION’S Sword with the bottom one having a Bright Star at its center. I think that I now know why I was befuddled on December 12th when I thought I seen Mars below GEMINI. I think that when I observed Mars at 8:00 P.M. I mistakenly thought that Stars I seen at that time was not of GEMINI, and that GEMINI had not cleared the Horizon yet.

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