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Zixar

Special Night for Saturn!

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Tonight, Saturn will be closer to the Earth than it has been in three decades, and its rings are tilted near their widest. If you got a telescope for Christmas, you may want to take it out tonight if it's clear and amaze the friends and family. There is no other telescopic sight that compares to Saturn, and it's in easy reach of even the ElCheapo 60mm department-store refractors.

It's easy to find, although it has moved a bit since I last gave directions to it. It is currently in southern Gemini, and as long as you can find Orion's Belt, you'll have little problem finding Saturn. Go outside and face South. Put your left arm in front of you, then swing it left to about the 10-11 o'clock position. Lift your hand about a third of the way up and you should be pointing in the general direction of three bright stars in a slightly-diagonal line. That's Orion's Belt. Below them and to their right is a bright blue-white star called Rigel. Above them and to the left at about the same distance as Rigel is reddish Betelgeuse. Start at Rigel, draw a line through the middle Belt star and keep going. Betelgeuse will be slightly above this line as you draw it out. The first bright object you come to past Betelgeuse is Saturn, which will be about the same brightness as Betelgeuse, maybe a little brighter.

If you go out a little after sunset to do this, don't get mixed up by the brilliant white star in the west. That's Venus, and bright-red Mars is the other bright object east (left, if you're facing south) of it. If you're looking at Venus, you're pointed at the wrong horizon! Turn halfway around and start hunting for Saturn after you're through being dazzled by the Evening Star. (Don't waste too much time looking at Venus through a telescope. Even though it shows phases like the Moon, it's an otherwise-featureless white disk. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all far more visually appealing in a 'scope.)

When you're through with Saturn, turn the scope back to Orion's Belt. Just below and between the two leftmost stars of the belt dangles Orion's Sword, the middle of which will look fuzzy under clear dark skies. That is Messier 42, the Great Orion Nebula, and it's easily visible even in binoculars and finderscopes. This is another "wow" sight in any telescope, although most people are puzzled by the lack of color if they've seen it in photographs, and if they do see color, they're shocked to find out it's GREEN instead of the fiery reds and blues of the Hubble shots. No, don't adjust your scope, the problem's in your eye. The human eye can't see colors very well in dark conditions, and if it can detect any at all, it's usually where the eye is most sensitive--green light. Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are bright enough to stimulate the regular color receptors, but even though M42 is the brightest nebula to us, we don't get much more than the green light. It takes a long-exposure photograph to pick up the color.

Hopefully I'll be able to get a new pic of Saturn tonight to replace the one under my name to the left. BTW, Saturn is nowhere near that fuzzy when viewed through a scope. That's just problems with the astrocamera focusing.

The Secret Signature of the Day has been cancelled by the HTML Police.

Or so the Germans would have us believe...

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OE: Cool! Equatorial or Dobsonian mount? I've got two Meade scopes: a 10" LX200GPS and an ETX-90. I might just take the ETX out tonight instead of the big one...

The Secret Signature of the Day has been cancelled by the HTML Police.

Or so the Germans would have us believe...

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LOL thanks Dabobbada! That's the only way I could have seen Saturn. It was cloudy and raining here AGAIN!

And maybe someday I'll be able to speak telescope-esse with you guys.LOL!

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Equatorial - Unfortunately when I got home from a New Years Party it was snowing. Maybe in a few days I will set it up.

Thus Sayeth "The OnionEater"

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I should have pointed out that since Saturn takes about 30 years to orbit the Sun (we do it in 1, naturally) Saturn will be a fine sight for the next 3 months, it was just closest to Earth (fractionally) on New Year's Eve. Go see it as soon as it's clear! I couldn't get to taking out the scope on NYE, but I'll do it soon.

The Secret Signature of the Day has been cancelled by the HTML Police.

Or so the Germans would have us believe...

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