Weekly Binocular Objects
WBO 11: 2018 Week 16 (19th Apr) - Summer Hiatus
Now that Spring has sprung, the nights are much lighter and the astronomical observing season is all but finished. The Weekly Binocular Object series will take a break over the Summer and resume in the Autumn.
We’ve observed a lot already this year; open clusters, globular clusters, galaxies and double stars, and hopefully learned a bit about these objects along the way. We’ve learned many useful techniques too, including star hopping and the use of ‘celestial signposts’, and these will again be put to use when the nights begin drawing in once more.
There’s no need to put your binoculars away just yet though! Early risers can enjoy a fantastic view of the planets Jupiter, Mars and Saturn in the South over the next few weeks. The attached image shows their approximate locations at 05:00 BST for the current week. Jupiter should show its four Galilean moons (Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto) with almost any binocular, and will be an obvious yellow disk in contrast to the point-like stars we’re used to. Mars will show its famous deep red hue, and although the rings of Saturn are out of reach for most handheld binoculars, you may be able to discern a non-uniform shape to the pale yellow disk - the rings can create the impression of a circle with ‘ears’, which may be seen under the very best conditions with a 10x binocular.
Keep an eye out for our own Moon too - it is often overlooked as a binocular object, and although most impressive at high magnifications in a telescope, the binocular view can be very pleasing. We’ll be focusing on a few larger lunar features when we resume the series in the Autumn, but for now just admire the view when you can - good lunar detail can be seen even when it is still light.
If you would like to get something of an astronomical ‘fix’ through the Summer months, why not come along to the JSL Observatory for our Solar Saturday sessions? I will give the (hopefully obvious) warning that you should NEVER use a binocular, telescope or similar to look at the Sun (instant and permanent eye damage will result!), but fortunately you can observe our star safely at the JSL Observatory, where trained supervisors set up specialist equipment. We have a dedicated solar telescope - a Lunt LS60THa Hydrogen-Alpha instrument - and a safely filtered telescope for white-light observation. Again, please note that this is the ONLY time you should look at the Sun! Do come along and see for yourself - astronomy in comfortable temperatures is a welcome change!
Solar Saturdays will begin on Sat 12th May from 14:00-16:00; keep an eye on this website (JSL Observatory panel in the right-hand column) for the latest information.
Enjoy the Summer, and join us again in the Autumn when we’ll resume the Weekly Binocular Object series and explore new and amazing celestial sights in stunning stereoscopic vision!
(image from Stellarium - www.stellarium.org )
Image 1: Planets low in the South at around 05:00 BST.