The Great Conjunction
Best view was looking thru the 13.1″ scope a 166X. I could not get a picture of it thru the scope using the 9 mm Eye Piece, but it was amazing because you could see the faint moons of Saturn and one of them looked closer to Jupiter then two of Jupiter’s own moons. Could have been a star. If it has moved to a different position by tomorrow I will know for sure then.
Yet another event occurs on the 21st this year in the form of a sight last seen by people in the year 1226 CE. This will be the extraordinarily close pairing of the planets Jupiter and Saturn that will play out in the evening twilight sky. If you’ve been watching the two planets over the course of the past few months you have seen Jupiter slowly but surely inch up on Saturn, and on the 21st they will pass just six arcminutes apart from each other. While they won’t appear to merge together as seen with the unaided eye, that apparent distance is about one-fifth the apparent diameter of the Moon. They will produce a spectacular view in the low-power field of a telescope, especially as the sky darkens and their respective flocks of moons become visible. These two planets generally encounter each other about every 19.8 years, and when they meet it is often called a “Great Conjunction”. After 19 of these encounters, their 20th can be very close, as is the case here. They were actually a tad closer in 1623, but that conjunction took place on the far side of the Sun and so was not visible. The 1226 close conjunction, which occurred on March 5th, brought the two planets to within three arcminutes of each other in a dark sky, which must have caused great consternation to astrologers of the day. The next close encounter of the two gas giants will occur after 19 more Great Conjunctions. On August 24, 2417 they will once again pass very close to each other, just five arcminutes apart. Mark your calendars!
El Presidente del El Valle Astronomers
Here are some links to the Great Conjunction:
Here are some more;
Which was found in https://www.space.com which has a great You Tube video from Griffith Observatory in CA
Here’s a link to read the minutes from our:
Annual General Meeting of El Valle Astronomers 2020
Saturday, December 12, 2020
July 2020 Update
Our Large Club Scope Project Is Finally Back on a Roll
Our large club scope project is finally on a roll after collecting dust for around 20 years. Here is what has transpired the past year and a half.
Jeff Simsovic was not able to produce a 32″ mirror that would be usable in the club-built 32″ Dobsonian chassis. Three had defective glass and the one that was excellent was smashed by the shipping company on its return from the coaters. After four mirror attempts and many hours of grinding and polishing, he finally threw in his hand.
Jeff then bought a completed homemade 30 ” F 4.5 scope for a good price and this was subsequently donated to the club by Melinda King. Originally the scope had a horrible mirror, but that was very workable, so Jeff refigured, polished and coated it with silver. Best part is that it came with an almost $3000 computer system or GoTo. We always wanted this on our 32″ but did not have enough money left over to buy one, but now we have one.
We will put the GoTo computer system on the club 32″ scope. The GoTo is amazing, consisting of two computers with digital servo motors and encoders. You punch in the object you want to see and push a button and the scope automatically swings on over to it and then tracks it. All you must do is look and be awed. It is a ServoCat run with an Argo Navis Digital Setting Circle system.
The Dobsonian Melinda was so kind to donate to us was built around the Obsession scope design, was way overbuilt and so is very heavy, which makes it hard to use for star parties. We did manage to drag it out to two or three National Park star parties, but it took four of us and an electric winch to get it into and out of trailers. The enclosed trailer we had bought for our 32” chassis is almost useless as it has too small of a rear door and no side door. To get the 30” to star parties, we put the scope in an open trailer and hoped it would not rain, which luckily it did not. The scope has been set up most of the past almost year and a half in my front yard where we have been fixing and improving it and observing. We spent many hours removing the kinks, of which there were many as it was old and had design flaws.
We wanted to use the scope chassis we built, which is much lighter, but also we wanted to use it because we spent our own blood, sweat and tears on it. Much of which was from built on the efforts of Dave Miller and cabinet maker, John Moulton, along with many donations and Hale-Bopp T-shirt sales.
So, a few of us took and chance and came up with $6500 to buy a used but, we believe, excellent 30″ F5 mirror. Colin Nicholls and his neighbor (who owns a 6-seater plane) flew out to Texas to pick up the new mirror. They removed all the rear seats and flew there and then back with the mirror all in one day. We wanted to take no more chances on having a shipper smash another mirror. Also, it was too dangerous to drive during the Covid-19 Virus.
Then we went about trying to sell the donated scope. We accomplished that in July, getting $7,500 for the scope but kept the GoTo computer system to use on the club chassis with the new mirror.
After we pay ourselves back, hopefully this will leave us with enough money for a platform ladder. We have been using 8- and 12-foot three-legged orchard ladders, which is “crazy dangerous”. Only one person fell so far and, luckily, he did not sue us. He did not even get hurt as he only fell a foot or two.
We felt that the views in the monster made it worth it to take a chance with the orchard ladders. The views almost bring tears of joy to one’s eyes to see the detail in objects we have seen many times in much smaller scopes. You could spend a half hour looking at deep sky objects and not see all there was to see. The beauty, too, was breath taking. Our new mirror is spec’d out to be even better.
Some day if given a chance we may sell the 30″ F5 and buy a 32″ F4.5 or so and get an additional 12% light. Call it aperture fever – almost as bad as the Covid-19. You die either way when you fall off the ladder or from bed, but at least you will die with a smile on your face if you die from falling off the ladder while looking at the Veil Nebula! Having a platform ladder will make viewing much safer.
We have not been doing star parties with the old 30″ as it has not been very portable to say the least as I mentioned before. One of our main goals is to make the club scope portable. The 32” chassis is much lighter and will be easier to use with a better sized and designed enclosed trailer.
Our task now is to mount the 30″ F5 mirror in the 32″ chassis and then cut the struts to length. Then we will use it for a while to get the bugs out of it before attempting to mount the GoTo equipment. We have lots of work to do, but we have enough talented club members to get it done. Along the way we hope to sell the trailer and get one with a wide drop-down tailgate and a side door and maybe a winch in the front. Hope for first light sometime this summer or fall. Then we will add the GoTo by next spring and hopefully find a useable enclosed trailer by then too.
My telephone number is still 505-579-4604. Call me if you think you can help us get the 32″ up and running. Also, call me to come and look through it when the new scope is up and running.
El Presidente for Life of the El Valle Astronomers
Thank you very much to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for there generous media policy, allowing us to use there images for educationa, non-commercial use on this website.