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All eyes on Jupiter
I might be an amateur astronomer, but I love my sleep. It would take an asteroid or comet impact to get me up at 3 am on a weekday morning. Oh, wait, we just had one! Fortunately, not exactly us, but Jupiter. Sound familiar? That’s because Jupiter was hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 exactly 15 years ago.
In July, 1994, I was a space-obsessed 12-year old kid wishing he had a telescope to see the awesome spectacle that was the SL-9 impacts. It would seem history has repeated itself – but now I’m properly equipped and ready for action. I took my Orion XT8 out this morning for a look at the impact scar. The sky was clear, and I rated seeing at 3/5. From my log:
“0730 UTC. Jupiter currently culminating about 70 degrees above the horizon. VERY bright. I tried both an OIII filter and variable polarizing filter to dim the glare as the disc seemed washed out. I settled on the variable polarizing filter with my 7mm Speers-WALER eyepiece at 170x. The impact zone is fairly obvious if you know right where to look. Clearly visible during moments of good seeing. Appearance of the impact scar varied according to seeing. In moments of excellent seeing it appeared as a very small, crisp oval. Other times it was more an elongated blob, or not visible at all. Using a chart in The Giant Planet Jupiter by John H. Rogers, I believe the scar is located in the South South Temperate Belt (SSTB). Predictions I used said transit across the center of the disc occurred 0747 UTC. It is much darker than the Great Red Spot (which transits about 2 hours ahead of the impact scar and was also visible at the time of observation), but much smaller. Very elongated in about a 3×1 ratio along lines of latitude. Again, very small, and something I would likely miss during a casual observation session. Fascinating!”
I wasn’t the only one observing the impact zone this morning: it was also seen by astronomers Jeremy Perez and John K, and I’m sure by many professionals and amateurs around our planet. Stay tuned, it will be very interesting to see how this develops!
The spots are back!
Finally had an excuse today to drag out my Orion Short Tube 80mm scope and Baader solar filter, because the spots are back! I haven’t been involved with amateur astronomy for too many years, so I haven’t had the chance to observe a solar maximum. And the recently-finished minimum has been one of the quietest on record. Nevertheless, sunspot group 1024 has emerged (as seen at right in this MDI image from SOHO), and it’s quite beautiful. Very convenient that this new group decided to emerge on a 3-day weekend, as well! Dodging cumulus, I managed to make this observation:
“At least 7 distinct spots visible in group 1024 at 30x, with the western-most spot being by far the largest. About 14 spots visible at 60x, tracing out an arc about 3′ long. A lot of beautiful detail seen at 120x. I see a bright patch visible in the umbra of the large spot. Overall impression is that of the Hawaiian archipelago seen on a map.”