Most of the students at Pascoe Vale Girls College have had a chance to view the night sky through the TiS telescope, so now it was the teaching staff’s turn. We had quite a turnout with a few friends and partners coming along as well. Nice way to end the semester…
It was touch and go as to whether the clouds were going clear, but a blessing in disguise, the moon was shielded just enough by the clouds that we could see the moon without a filter. Here is an image taken with a smart phone.
While everyone was ‘wowing’ over the moon and looking through a variety of objectives, the clouds started to clear up and before we knew it, we were presented with Saturn, Mars and finally the Milky Way. Most importantly, the Northern sky cleared up first and we were able to do a proper alignment. Once again, our alignment method worked extremely well and every object was right on target and tracked beautifully.
We had a look at Saturn. This time we put in the 9mm objective and took out the focal reducer. This gave us the smallest field of view and hence the largest image of Saturn. Note though, that under this configuration, the image is quite difficult to see. We found for ease of viewing, the 18mm objective was the best. There were also moons visible and if you take time to look at the image, you also notice the shadow of the rings on the planet, the colours and the separation of the two main rings.
Mars was next, but a little disappointing after Saturn. “it’s just a red spot” I think was uttered. But think about this: How small was Mars in comparison to Saturn? How much closer to us is Mars? Now think about how big the rings are and Saturn itself compared to Mars. Having trouble comprehending this?
- Rings are only 20m thick
- Rings are over 100,000 km wide
- Saturn is 18 times bigger than Mars in Diameter
- Saturn is over 1000 billion km further away from us than Mars or 16 times further away if both planets were at their closest to Earth.
We then had a look at a few deep sky objects in the Milky Way, the Jewel Box cluster and C80 – a globular cluster, to name a few, where we were able to marvel over the colours and density of stars.
Then it was back to the moon, with the largest magnification possible and the moon filter in. Now we could really see some amazing features on the craters. The shadow edge gives us the most contrast.
Another sensational night and the skies cleared just at the right time for us, because by the time I got home (5mins after packing up) the stars were completely obscured again and the moon was shining through the clouds once more. I think it was time to do some thawing out anyway…
Thanks to Liz Ankers for sharing her photo of the moon, to Lidia Nowara, media teacher at PVGC, who took all the group shots and to all the staff who took time out to come along and learn more about the program and the night sky.