Stargazing at Dusk

At 4:00 pm of August 22, 2008, I noticed patches of cirrus clouds covering the blue sky. Such cloud formations always gave me a sign of a clear sky later in the evening. The past few nights were boring and gloomy due to thick clouds brought about by a storm. Seeing the cirrus clouds immediately lifted up my spirit and I suddenly got an idea. I checked out Stellarium to determine if Venus, Mercury, Mars and Saturn were visible in the western sky after sunset. As soon as I found out that three out of four planets would be visible before 7:30 pm, I immediately packed my things and headed out for an observation at the PAGASA Observatory.

I arrived at around 5:00 pm. Thankfully, I was with a friend who helped me carry my stuff. The UP Astrosoc members then were busy but gladly helped me in choosing the best site to view the planets.

I took a picture of my AstroScan telescope and astronomy book while waiting for the right time:

After two hours, there was still no sign of the three planets – Venus, Mercury and Mars. The sun has already set but huge and dark clouds were starting to form and obstruct the view near the western horizon. I almost lost hope when suddenly I saw a bright yellow object appearing out of the clouds. It was Venus! I grabbed my 7×50 binoculars and saw Mercury at the lower left of Venus. Minutes later, these two planets became visible with the naked eye.

Without further delay, I hurriedly told everyone about it and they too had a chance to see the close pairings of the two planets. I also took images – a habit of mine- as a remembrance.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see Mars due to clouds. On the other hand, if the skies permit next week, we could see Mars getting closer to the two planets. It is something we should look forward to.

When Venus and Mercury had disappeared from view, we shifted our attention to Jupiter which was high in the southeastern sky. This time, we used the AstroScan Telescope to view the bands and moons of Jupiter. Because everyone in the group – including me – was curious which Galilean moon was this and that at that time, I decided to check out Stellarium:

The rest of the observation was spent in identifying the visible constellations: Sagittarius and Scorpius in the southern sky; Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila in the northeastern sky; Bootes and Libra in the northwestern and western sky; and Ophiuchus and Hercules near our zenith.

We ended our stargazing session at 8:30 pmūüėÄ.

Thanks UP Astrosoc for a very wonderful and interactive night!

Ad Astra Per Aspera!

~ by Stella's Gaze on August 23, 2008.

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