Thanks to the miracle of social media, I saw a post on Sky&Telescope’s FB page indicating a possible impact on Jupiter with a picture taken by an amateur astronomer in TX.
So, naturally, I woke up very early and took a trip down to my nearby observing site. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see everything from my yard, and the pre-dawn sky is pretty damn interesting right now. You have a crescent moon, Orion, Venus, Jupiter and a bunch of other cool stuff. My priority target was Jupiter, though I knew that even with my high-quality 80mm scope, high levels of detail would be hard to come by. 80mm is more than some of the greatest Astronomers in history ever used, but it’s about 1/3 the aperture of the scope used to take the picture above. That’s diameter too, not area. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
I managed to get up early enough that it was still totally dark, but was a little too early for my brain to be 100% working. In my stupor, I forgot my observing chair, which wasn’t the end of the world since I wouldn’t be out that long, and immediately trained my scope on Venus instead of Jupiter. For those of you who haven’t ever put Venus in an eyepiece, let me tell you, that lady is BRIGHT. Venus was crescent too, so that was still pretty cool, just shocking. Fortunately, so is Jupiter and you really don’t need dark adjusted eyes to observe it, nor will you have them once you do. Many amateur astronomers consider Jupiter to be the ideal “last target” of the night, since it does such a number on your night vision.
So, after finally targeting Jupiter, which was the first time with this scope, I was surprised at how much detail I could see in the rings. I’m not sure, but I think I may have seen a little dark spot on the northern equatorial belt. The seeing wasn’t perfect, so the focus came and went, but more than once I thought I saw something. I know there aren’t shadows from any of the moons that would cause this, but it was not so distinct that I can say what it was. It’s entirely possible my desire to see something filled in some blanks, so I’ll have to wait and see what follow up information comes up.
While I was out there, I got a great look at the Orion Nebula, which was surprisingly good in this scope. I can’t wait to spend some more time with that particular target this winter.