Astro Bob blog: I put the moon to bedMoonset was only the beginning of the night's journey
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
I put the moon to bed
A distant tree is silhouetted against the half moon four minutes before moonset last night. Details: 400mm lens at f/5.6, 1/10" and ISO 800. Photo: Bob King
Clouds, commitments and simple exhaustion have kept me from a late night under balmy skies this past week. I tried to make up for that yesterday night. Sunset's clearing sky was an invitation to take the telescope out for a ride to the country and a soak in the Milky Way.
For the first hour, the first quarter moon was out; its light diluted the Milky Way and rendered faint stars invisible. Moonset was at 12:08 a.m., and I watched with anticipation as its color changed from pale yellow to cantaloupe to pumpkin orange on its slow, steady trek to the horizon. During the final moments before setting, the bitty-bit of the moon's disk was a brilliant orange star pinned to the black treeline.
Jupiter and Pegasus around 1 a.m. local time in late July. Once you see the planet, you can't miss the Great Square. Jupiter is currently in the constellation Pisces the Fish. Created with Stellarium
That was that. With the moon out of the way, darkness flowed over the sky like a tide, and the stars and Milky Way resumed their rightful place without further lunar mischief. At nearly the same time, another brilliant light popped up, this time in the eastern sky, slicing its way through the trees to my eye. Ah, Jupiter. Great to see it return to the pre-midnight hours. Barely. To see the planet well, you have to fend off sleep until about 1 a.m., which I happily did. If you're a late night person, you may want to go out the next clear night and take a look at this planetary beacon. With nothing else as bright in the neighborhood vying for your attention, it's an amazing sight.
When you've found Jupiter, look a fist or so above it to get a taste of autumn in the form of the Great Square of Pegasus. The Square is one of the most notable of fall asterisms and high in the south during evening hours then. It belongs to the larger constellation of Pegasus the Winged Horse.
No exaggeration -- this is how bright Jupiter "feels" to the eye when it comes up in the southeast after midnight. Can you find the Great Square in the photo? Details: 15mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 3200 and 30-second time exposure with a diffusion filter that helped emphasize the brighter stars from the many fainter ones. Photo: Bob King
If you own a telescope or pair of binoculars, you can see three of Jupiter's brightest moons tomorrow morning. The fourth, Europa, is directly in front of the planet and very difficult to spot, but the others will be easy catches on either side of the planet.
Jupiter and moons as seen through a small telescope Tuesday morning. Since most telescopes reverse south and north when you look through the eyepiece, this sketch does, too. South is at top, north at bottom.