Searching the Sky: The show of giant planets

David Baumgartner writes that if not for the Moon, Jupiter would be the brightest object in the sky until Venus rises in the early morning hours at this time of year.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

Jupiter and Saturn continue to glow prominently in the sky vying for our attention. Both have my full attention when I’m out searching the skies. Everyone has their favorites, but how can you choose between these two giants? They are both gorgeous in their own way. When my good friends Dan, Steve, Ron, Mike and I go out with our scopes, you can count on hearing them yelling out: that’s got to be my favorite! Then two minutes later you hear them shouting out another favorite of theirs. Ron admits to having many favorites. Come on Ron, take a stand and name just your top ten. Bet you can’t. The boys don’t even listen to me when I shout out; they know that all the objects are my favorites. And no, I can’t name my top ten either.

If not for the Moon, Jupiter would be the brightest object in the sky until Venus rises in the early morning hours at this time of year. And that is saying something when you consider the fact that the winter skies contain the most brilliant stars of the year. Can you just imagine what went through Galileo’s mind when he first caught a glimpse of Jupiter’s rounded disc being surrounded by four giant moons, and realizing that he was the very first Earthly human to lay eyes on this wonder in the night sky? What he saw confirmed his ideas on what our solar system must look like; with the Sun in the center and everything else rotating around it. At that time people thought of the earth as being flat, and against the church’s teachings if you said or thought otherwise. Sometimes the boys and I disagree on certain astronomical ideas, but if we do we don’t turn each other in to the church. When I ever disagree I just smile and say “Boys it’s okay to be wrong.” That usually stirs them up even more. Life is good…

Saturn, not the brightest in the sky, but certainly can hold its own in beauty especially when observed through magnification. Saturn’s rings are most likely the best telescopic view in the heavens. This year we see Saturn tilted toward us showing off its northern face. Soon Saturn’s rings will begin closing and eventually will appear edge-on. All you will see is a fine line at the equator. Not as illuminating as the showing of the northern or southern view, but none the less quite interesting to observe Saturn without it’s beautiful rings. Then slowly the southern half of the planet will show its face, and then it starts all over again. Unfortunately a lot of us old boys won’t be around to witness it. But you younger ones have many stargazing years left in you. Don’t squander them away. Get out there at night and look up, enjoy the skies before you are one of those oldies yourself.

Clear skies.

November Calendar of Events:

Nov. 8: Last quarter Moon

Nov. 12: Moon passes 3 degrees north of Venus

Nov. 13: Moon passes 1.7 degrees north of Mercury

Nov. 14: Moon is at perigee (222,350 miles from Earth)

Nov. 15: New Moon occurs

David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.