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Monday, December 29, 2008


Semi-live blogging the occultation

8:30 pm: Sunset in two minutes, occultation begins in 7 minutes, I can see Venus clearly, but the Moon is still invisible to both the unaided eye and binoculars. The rellies are having a BBQ, and are listening to Splendor in the Grass at full volume on triple J as the shasliks cook.

8:45 pm: At a few minutes before occultation, I pick up the Moon and Jupiter as pale ghosts in binoculars. I jiggle the scope around and finally get the Moon and Jupiter in the scope. SmallestOne asks if he can see the Moon. I look up, then look back and Jupiter is gone! Blast.

9:00 pm - 9:20 pm: Show the kids the Moon through the scope, eat delicious barbecue with rellies (brother-in-law #1 got a potato cookbook for Christmas, we had Swedish baked potatoes and Oyster blade cooked on the Barbie with hot pepper sauce).

9:25 pm: Jog (as much as you can jog carrying a 4" reflector telescope) up the the end of the street to get the Moon clear of obstructions. Align scope and get Moon focused.

Looking at wrong end of the Moon when Jupiter appears (Skymap had the Moon appearing further along the northern limb). Watch Jupiter slowly emerge above the craters of the thin crescent Moon. Astounding sight. Even with the Moon and Jupiter low to the horizon, you can still see it all fairly clearly. Take rubbish photo (discover settings jogged onto "automatic bright daylight", rather than my astronomy setup while carrying scope up street). Neighbour arrives up and has a look through the scope at Jupiter pulling away from the moon, is impressed. Try and get wide field shot with camera, shakes too much in wind from sea.

10:00 pm: Get back to house in time for Brother-in-law #2's Birthday cake. No one cares about occultation. Eat outrageous amount of cake and listen to Leonard Cohen at unreasonable volume.

(as usual click on any of the images for a larger version, the bottom image has Mercury visible just near the trees. Occultation of Jupiter, 29 December, 2008).

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nice collection
Blast! No joy in Canberra - too much cloud. Couldn't even see Venus. The night before was perfect - typical!
Nice post, Ian. ;)

Was hoping to get in some astrophotography myself but Celestron sent a bad motor drive for my C4 mount. Bah, maybe in a couple weeks.
Sorry you missed it Chris, and sorry your astrophotography didn't work out Stephen. Mine was pretty rubbish, but what the heck, the occultation was beautiful (I'm not sure I emphasised that enough in my writing), watching Jupiter emerge live was worth more than capturing it on a video monitor. And showing the neighbours Jupiter and the Moon through the telescope, as I watched the dot of Jupiter emerge from the crescent Moon was an experience that transcended photography. Nice images would help keep the memories, and share them with others, but helping someone see that sky was great as well.
Err, that comment of mine sounds a bit pretentious. What I was trying to say was that sometimes you can get a bit too caught up in the photography to enjoy the experience. The fact that I couldn't do proper photography meant that I got to appreciate the occultation more.
Thats a very interesting post. I have been inspired. Thanks.
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expert and like your post as well so thnx and chears mate!
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