A week or two ago, my wife’s grandfather (D) asked me about an object he had seen in the sky that had been unusually bright. Given the time, clarity, and brightness, I quickly confirmed it was Jupiter and its four moons, but it got me to thinking. Given his recent interest, had he ever had the experience of looking through a telescope? We’ve had the scopes up at the cottage repeatedly, and my mother-in-law’s family has looked numerous times, but I’ve never had it set up when my father-in-law’s side of the family has been around. So I suggested if we had a good night, maybe D could come for dinner and see Jupiter and Saturn.
Monday to Wednesday were out, and Thursday was uncertain, so we aimed for Friday. D brought his friend Z and the weather held. I would have loved to hear more about a friend of his who had passed away that week…97 years old, had served in a gun turret in a tank in WWII and had driven it all over Europe. Lots of action, lots of experience. By all accounts, the type of man my father would have loved to have met and played cards with (cribbage or euchre, probably). Sigh. But the skies beckoned and Jacob and I started setting up our two scopes around 7:45 p.m. We have good views to the South + West from there, so Jupiter was clear. Saturn was not quite out yet, and behind clouds. We were good to go with enough darkness around 8:45 p.m. and we were able to show off Jupiter and Saturn.
While I was happy to show them both, two things were apparent that I had not realized enough before. My favourite eyepiece, the 17.3mm Televue Delos, is really not that forgiving for everyone. Jacob prefers plossls by a country mile, and D and Z both had much easier times with the stock 25mm Celestron Plossl. Secondly, I made a note that the legs are VERY hard to see. We had to turn on the red flashlights quite bright so they could see where they were walking, and even white light wouldn’t have been inappropriate. What looks easy to me once my eyes adapt are not as easy for others. Both of these issues were relevant again the next night, so I’ll discuss them more then.
D and Z got to see both planets and then headed off home (about 30 minutes away). And Jacob, I and Andrea did a bit of a sky tour. Unlike the last time at the cottage, we were prepared with bug spray (always) and warmer clothes (last time we stayed in shorts and t-shirts, doh!). We cruised the sky and looked at various clusters, etc. Andromeda was visible again, marking the second time I’ve seen it at the cottage, and I was a bit disappointed. Even with my 8″ scope, I wasn’t pulling in as much light as I hoped. I would have liked to take a pic, see if I got any more detail, but I didn’t feel like setting up anything else. Just visual.
I think the highlight of the night for me was Albireo. I love seeing the colours and getting people to say what THEY see…it is always different. I just need to learn more details for describing it. We pushed through to about 10:30/11:00 p.m. or so and then packed up. Jacob was really tired and had to crash after we put his EPs away, which left me taking down and putting away two scopes. Definitely not the fun part of the evening, but ultimately worth it. After I was done, I tried laying on the dock for a bit, but it was making me feel almost nauseated. I did get to see a few remaining meteors though.
Overall, another good night.