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.
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