Field Notes and then some – Fri Oct 28 2011 2130hrs

•October 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment


Astronomy has been a hobby and an interest of mine since a long time now. My first telescope was a 2″ refractor that I bought from the Nehru Planetarium in ’97 with saved up pocket money. Ever since, I have been an enthusiast of the heavens, the stars and basically anything the night sky has to show.

Recently I purchased an 8inch dobsonian telescope. Christened CYCLOPS – due to mythological and sentimental reasons, this is my first serious telescope. Thankfully, I have a decent enough dark site about 20 minutes drive form my house. So, for the most part, you can asume that the readings I will post here are taken from that site.

This blog will serve as an online journal of my field notes, also it will have sufficient background or supplementary links that it should be helpful to fellow beginner astronomers. Several observation tips will be sprinkled along the way – so if you are a star watcher like me, just starting out – “Watch this space!!”


A few thoughts on amateur astronomy :

Long ago the Greeks called him Zeus – named after the God of the Gods, the king of kings, the master of all. I am talking about Jupiter – the largest planet of our solar system. Jupiter was one the first objects I saw with my telescope. And I have to say that the first expeirnece is profound. I had looked at Saturn before, and its just obviously so pretty, you can see the rings and Titan. But Jupiter is a whole different story altogether.

It is spectacular, uniquely beautiful, awe-inspiring and overwhelmingly majestic. One look and you can tell – this is the king of all planets. When looking through the telescope, you can tell – despite the great distance – that it is a giant planet.

It has shielded us from asteroids and other hazards by attracting them towards him with his massive gravity. Jupiter happens to be just the right size for Earth to sustain its nature, if it were any bigger, its core would have triggered a nuclear fusion making it into another star. Most of our probes to the outer planets and outside of the solar system use Jupiter’s gravitational pull as a sling shot. So by all standards, we owe a lot to Jupiter – and seeing him through the telescope commands a certain reverence. I guess the Greeks weren’t all that wrong after all!

Alongside Jupiter, I observed its four galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Castillo! About four hundred years ago Galileo made the same observation and it changed the world. It is humbling to know that even four centuries ago, there was a scientist so true to his observations, that he risked the wrath of the Roman Church and along with it complete ostracism from society for scientific integrity. Galileo pointed his telescope toward Zeus and saw the four moons revolving around Jupiter! This clearly and observably refuted the notion that the universe revolved around Earth!

Later he sat in a cathedral and deduced from the pendulum that the period of oscillation was independent of the length of the arc. Then he refuted another common theory and suggested that heavier and lighter objects hit the earth at the same time. Which took some guts considering that the theory he was refuting was of Aristotle’s!

It is indeed very humbling to make the same observations as this great father of astronomy. And it reminds us that each time we think we are sure of how the world works – how the universe is structured, we should know that it could all change with one observation! It helps man retain perspective when immersed and absorbed in our own circles, we begin to think of ourselves above nature and above GOD.

A lot of people debate the existence of GOD. Of intelligent creation. And many more still wonder if science can prove/disprove the existence of God. I think all of these deliberations are irrelevant. And you only need to take a decent enough telescope to a dark site to understand this.

How you define God is up to each individual. But the existence of God cannot be questioned.  Take  a decent sized telescope and go to a dark site – look at a distant galaxy, or a star forming nebula, look at Jupiter or its four moons and let yourself truly absorb it. Understand the distances involved, understand the physics involved, understand the science of each photon and you will see that for an arrangement of objects  so beautiful – there has to be a higher governing power.

So take it from me. Don’t care about what the religious books say or what Stephen Hawkins is typing out – the heavens through a lens will give you a more visceral and indelible spiritual experience than a temple will ever be able to! And in that moment you will realize the Science and Religion to converge and mean the same thing – and any discrepancy between the two will disappear.

Welcome to Astronomy my friends! I assure you – IT WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD!!

– Sanket



Date: Friday, 28th Oct 2011

Time: 2145 – 0000 hrs

Location: Powell Observatory – Louisburg, KS. 66053

Lat:: 38.646221 Long:: -94.699981



Cyclops: 8″ Dobsonian reflector telescope. 25mm eyepiece, magnification: 48X , 10 minutes of temperature acclimatization for primary mirror – excellent collimation.


Temperature: 34F

Humidity: 40%

Cloud cover: Clear skies.

Seeing: Very stable – little or no turbulence

Overall observing conditions: Excellent, Milky way was clearly visible with a few dark lanes, Northern sky had some light pollution, but most of the sky was observable.

Observed Targets:

  1. Jupiter and its four Galilean moons
  2. Pleiades
  3. Double star cluster
  4. Andromeda Galaxy
  5. Le Gentil Galaxy
  6. Orion Nebula
  7. Betelgeuse
Additional Notes:
1. Jupiter – I was able to make out the red bands on Jupiter and I was able to clearly see the four moons, Io was really close, but I couldn’t see Io in transit on this night. The giant red spot was clearly visible – as I mentioned in my report earlier – I had exceptional seeing conditions – the best I have had at this dark site.
2. Pleiades:
RA   :  3h 47m 00s
DEC: +24 07’00”
You could see seven stars of the open cluster with the naked eye. Obviously a lot more in the telescope. But I wasn’t able to see the entire cluster in my FOV (Field of View). I am hoping to capture it entirely with a 32mm lens, if you have some experience with getting the full Pleiades cluster in a single FOV – please let me know your specs.
3. NGC 869 and NGC 884::
RA   :   2h 22m 0s
DEC: +57 8′ 0″”
I was able to make out the double cluster with my naked eye and point the telescope accurately with minor adjustments. I could get the core of the clusters to resolve sharply in my FOV, this is a truly breathtaking sight. However, I am hoping I can get better resolution along the edges of the FOV with a better flat lens.
4. M31 – Andromeda Galaxy & 5. M32 -Le Gentil ::
RA   :  00h 42m 42s
DEC: +41 16′ 00″
RA: 00h 42m 42s
DEC: +40 52′ 00″
I was lucky to capture Andromeda Galaxy when it was directly overhead. It appears brightest in this position. I was able to capture M31 and M32 in the same FOV.  M31 was very clear and bright – of course I could only see the galactic core of Andromeda. M32 was a less brighter but still distinctly visible.
6. M42 –  Orion Nebula:
RA   :   05h 35m 17s
DEC:  -5 23′ 28″
This was the first time I saw the Orion Nebula and I can safely say I will be returning to this Messier for more study.  Unfortunately Orion rose at midnight and by that time it was very cold, I was also considerably sleepy – so I did not get as much lens time on M42 as I’d hoped for. I was able to make out a very nice blue cloud as well as dark patches in the sword of Orion.
7. Betelgeuse :
RA    : 5h 55m 10s
DEC:  +7 24′ 25″
This was clearly a surprise. On this particular night and observation session Betelgeuse was of the same visual magnitude as Rigel – this is fairly rare. I was able to focus on Betelgeuse and it was stunningly beautiful in the FOV. You could distinctly make out red flashes on the star. Just to be sure – this wasn’t just bad seeing, I focussed on Rigel and back on Jupiter, the atmospheric conditions were fairly stable. So I was pretty sure the red flares were true to Betelguese’s nature.  I will be registering this observation with AAVSO.