Iridesce Sent

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Monday, April 05, 2004

In this rare, almost over week of all the planets being visible in the night sky, my friend Tony has viewed all the eye- or binocular-viewable ones. He describes his experience:

"At about 10:00 tonight, I finished observing all the planets you can see with the naked eye or binoculars, Mercury, Venus, the Earth (easy), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, in ONE NIGHT.

Mercury took me about three days of waiting for clouds to move and then two nights of peering at the still-sunlit sky during dusk, trying to pick out stars to use as guideposts and find the dang thing. I finally gave up trying to find guide stars against the sun's glare and used a compass (and star chart) to figure out the bearing to look along at 7:30 PM, then I started at the horizon at that bearing and worked my way up about 6 - 8 degrees with a pair of binoculars. Found it! Then I had to watch it until it set, to make sure that it set at the right time to be Mercury and not just a star I'd mistaken for it. Then I found the guide stars I would have been using if only I could have seen them earlier. All confirmed! Yay!

I was surprised that it seemed yellow-green. I'd always thought it would look bluish. The fisherman down by the lake (I was at White Rock Lake) kept looking at me and wondering what I was doing.

Mars and Saturn were easy, and Venus was too bright to focus accurately. Jupiter was last, and by luck I picked a time when all four of the major moons were spread out and visible. They move fairly fast; in a few hours, several of them will be crossing over the face of Jupiter, giving people with good-sized telescopes a chance to watch their shadows...

Anyway, I wanted to celebrate."

I join you in celebration. And I am, of course, jealous.
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