Sunday, November 3, 2013

Finding Uranus with my 10" Meade and Stellarium

So tonight was the first night I've had to go star gazing in over a week. In the interim there's been some excitement about it being November and there being multiple comets out there either within the range of a small aperture telescope or almost within the range. Of course all those are early morning objects and I can't get up that early... instead I decided to focus on something actually in the night sky. Uranus. Uranus is currently in pisces, which is a portion of the night sky where the stars are mostly obscured by the glare of the city lights. From my backyard there are no nearby stars that I can pick out as guide stars. Star-hopping is therefore required. Which means I get to bring my laptop and Stellarium outside.

Stellarium is an open source software that is pretty darn good when it comes to star locating. Its not perfect, but it comes close. And the price is right. So, laptop in hand, I picked out the most obvious nearby star I could see and started star-hopping. About ten minutes later and only a few wrong turns I was looking at Uranus.

So I should say right now that Uranus isn't much to look at. There's a reason it was never identified as a planet in antiquity. Its small. Its 3 arc-seconds in total size right now. At about 30x that makes it just slightly larger than a point of light. Kicking it up to about 60x and you can clearly see a tiny, nice, sky-blue sphere. Atmospheric turbulence meant that it was a blurry sphere - but that's the atmosphere.

So that's it. Short and sweet. Picked up a nice planet tonight - and one not visible with the naked eye. Nice.

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