Sunday, August 29, 2010

nightsky & small miracles

Not long ago I found myself a once weekly gig working the overnight. It's easy enough work, the pay's good and the extra bucks come in handy. But better than that, while I'm out and about getting it done, I can watch the night sky.

I've always been a sort of amateur, naked eye astronomer.
I can tell most constellations apart and usually the difference between what's a star and what could be a planet. Then, when I'm not sure of what I'm seeing, I know how to look it up.

That said, while I was out and about through the overnight this week, I was followed by this image of the moon and an unusually bright light to it's left. A planet I reckoned but honestly, didn't know which one.

Now here's where one of my small miracles comes in.
Earlier that day, during the daylight hours, I met a young woman walking her puppy; one of those marble pit bulls. Both the woman and the puppy were super friendly and we chatted for several minutes while I patted and played with the pup. The puppy's name, as it turned out, was Jupiter.

Now, I knew Mars was visible in the sky that night but that wasn't the right position for it. Then I remembered the puppy and thought, "what are the odds?" that's gotta be Jupiter
up there. (divine intervention strikes again)

Once I'd finished my gig I shot these few pictures (it's great having a digital camera with a 10 x 48 zoom lens) and judging from the spherical shape, color and random meeting with the puppy earlier that day, decided that it definitely was Jupiter
I was seeing.

But of course for things scientific you always need verification so I went to the "AstroViewer" and, sure enough, Jupiter was in the right position to support my decision but
so too was Uranus.

Hmmm, I wondered. . .
Can you see Uranus with the naked eye?
Well, it turns out that you can but, as far as I know, it only ever appears as a blueish pinpoint of light in the night sky.
My target was decidedly a planet of a different size and color.

So between the size and color, position on the skychart and a chance meeting with a puppy, I'm going with Jupiter.
Of course if any one of you knows better, please let me know.
I never mind being better informed.

1 comment:

Doc Al said...

What you're seeing is definitely Jupiter. It is currently the brightest object by far in the late night, early morning sky (except for the moon, of course). It is at the part of its orbit that brings it closest to the sun and is also on the same side of the sun as the Earth at this time so, closest to us, therfore very big and bright.