Monday, January 05, 2009

Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury (Toronto)

Finally came out of hibernation today. Ventured outside around 3:30 PM to return a library book (The Demolished Man) and pick up some staples (i.e. dinner). Noticed the sky was clear, horizon to horizon. Well, except over the lake—but that didn't count.

Just over a quarter Moon. It will be full in about 6 or 7 days...

Once back home, as the Sun cast long shadows, I dropped the groceries. Grabbed my eyeglasses, small tripod, binoculars adapter, binoculars, and a fresh sweater. Quickly glanced at Stellarium: Mercury was at about a 45° angle from the Sun and 14° in altitude and about 4° east of Jupiter. All right! Sent a heads-up to Toronto Centre RASC listserv. And back outside!

I headed to the Western Technical high school's west side, to overlook the soccer pitch. I hoped the sight lines would work. Never tried to observe here before but it should be a good spot...

Set up my cheapo Bushnell Ensign "fast-focus" 7x50 binoculars on my small metal Manfrotto tripod. Gently tuned the right ocular. These things could stand to be collimated again. But I was able, when I relaxed, to get a singular image.

Picked up Venus naked eye at 4:40. Through the binoculars I could see a crescent. It looked like it was slightly less that half phase. (Venus: mag -4.3, az 200°, alt 32°.)

Picked up a planet in binos at 4:50. Largish disk. Huh. It was just above the Runnymede Public School roof. I jostled for position. Up the steps to the west entrance improved my elevation but tree branches interfered. At the centre of the stairs to the field, it was over the chimney, and the heat disturbed the image. Slightly north was best, while a bit lower.

I continued to view it until it was less than a degree from the roof line. Scanning up and to the left, at 5:10, I suddenly spotted Mercury. Ah ha! So it was Jupiter! (Jupiter at 4:50: mag -1.5, az 229°, alt 10°.) I should have trusted my instincts and my assessment of the size of the planet's large disk. (Mercury: mag -0.7, az 229°, alt 11°.)

Mercury was light orange. It flickered a fair amount through the atmosphere and the heat from the school building. Good to catch it, this time of year. We were lucky, this spot of nice weather, only one day after greatest elongation... Eighth (8th) career viewing.

Picked up Capella behind me, over the roof of the high school, up high, about a 40° angle.

Lost Mercury naked eye behind the public school at 5:40. (Mercury: mag -0.7, az 235°, alt 6°.)

Another quick look at shimmering Venus.

It was chilly out there.


Stellarium says the elevation at the time I lost sight of Mercury was just over 6°. This is fantastic news. That is about the maximum height of the trees to the west. I shall definitely use this site in the future. Although there are a lot of lights nearby... Including the horrific, blazing, bright white light beside the parking garage entrance.


Had a few visitors during the brief session. Including one of the teachers. She talked about a segment coming up in September where the Grade 9s make a box, put pin holes in it, and make a constellation. Sounds like a fun exercise.

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