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Astronomy by Michelle

Astronomy Mall



Our Solar System

Although my primary interests lie outside our own solar system, I occasionally have the urge to take a look at our closest neighbors. During early fall, 1999, I decided to set up the equipment for a night of shooting Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately, fires had been burning up and down the Sierra and the skies were not ideal. It's a testament to the find folks who build CCD cameras and quality imaging software to get the kind of images we see here. Each of these exposures were shot at F10 with a C11, ST7 CCD camera, 3" off axis mask, and 1 second exposures through red, green, and blue filters.

When I was a teenager, I feasted on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels that chronicled the stories of Mars. Sparking a keen interest in the planets, I have always been fascinated by them.? Out of all of our nearby neighbors, I find Jupiter to be the most interesting. It's rotational period is a mere 10 hours. No doubt this contributes to the already tempestuous storms we see frothing on its surface. With a small inexpensive telescope, anyone can spend many nights observing the Great?Red Spot (GRS a storm that has lasted at least 300 years and could consume our planet several times) come round and round.?
I wasn't lucky enough to catch it in this on this evening. On clear steady nights, you can see festoons jutting from the dark bands.? Jupiters moons provide additional entertainment by noticably moving round the orb. Many times have I witnessed moons crossing the visual path and seen their shadows prominently displayed on the Jovian world. For anyone wishing to start visual astronomy, Jupiter certainly delivers an overwhelming packet of observational activities.
For some unknown reason, at 14 years old, I got up early enough in the morning to see a bright "star" outshining the rest in the predawn. Dad had purchased a 4" reflector many years previous but we had never done much but look at the moon. I didn't know what this "star" really was, but I suspected it to be a planet. I was hoping that it might be Jupiter.? I ran in the house and rumaged to the back of the cloak closet.
There in the back under a layer of dust was the little telescope with the flimsy mount.? I didn't know how to work it but I took it out and set it up in our driveway.? I had a hard time getting it to point to where I wanted, but within just a few minutes, I had centered in on the marvelous world of Saturn.? I could see its rings clearly.? I was shocked beyond disbelief when I discovered that I could really see Saturn! This was my first foray into observational astronomy.? It is certainly a tragedy that it took another 25 years before I picked it back up again.