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Ralphf

Dawn Session 12-30-17 JST

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Dawn Session 12-30-17 JST

 

Clear Skies at Last!

 

AFTER NEARLY 2 weeks of cloudy to mostly cloudy skies, the weather forecasts and weather apps indicated clearing for several hours before / after sunrise. So, today being a Saturday, I could afford to climb out of bed at 4:30am and do some comparative viewing with my Celestron Skymaster 15x70 and recently- purchased Vixen Ascot ZR10x50 WP. I live in a suburban area halfway between Osaka and Wakayama, Japan and my balcony affords a view of the skies from the southeast to the southwest. 

 

I started out gazing up at Jupiter and Mars which were in close proximity. Just above Jupiter was a clear, bright dot seen in both pairs of binos. This turned out to be a combination of Ganymede and Europa. In my sleepy state I had forgotten to bring out my tripod and didn’t feel like going back inside to get it. 

At the 7 o’clock position just below Jupiter was Callisto. This was more clearly evident in the 15x70’s when I managed to hold them still for a few seconds at a time. Io was too close into the glare of Jupiter to make out in either pair of binoculars.  Between Jupiter and Mars, Zubenelgenubi. The separation between Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 Librae was clearly evident in both 10x50 and 15x70. Just to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi was an arrow-head-like semi-circle consisting of 6 stars, only 5 of which were evident in the Vixens, though there was a hint of the 6th with averted vision. The 6th, which the Celestrons plainly showed is 8th magnitude HD131009 — 1,700 ly away (that sort of thing always blows me away). So, there are times when the extra 5x of the 15x70’s IS noticeable. 

 

Welcome to the Breakfast Show

 

The main event of this session was catching a glimpse of almost simultaneously-rising Antares and Mercury. It was 4 degrees C when I began viewing but as dawn approached the temperature dropped another degree. It may or not be my imagination but the skies to the east and south seemed to sharpen. Just after 5:30am, my favorite star, Antares, peeked up over the hills to the southeast, sparkling red and blue. Soon after, slightly eastward came Mercury, at first, similarly sparkling with alternating colors before turning into a clear, whitish orb. What was particularly satisfying about this Mercury-rise, besides the fact that it’s been about 9 or 10 months since I last saw it, was the fact that the sky was still dark and I recently read that, “because Mercury is always close to the sun, it is usually only seen in the lighter skies of dawn or dusk and only rarely is it seen in darkness.” Cool - - a rarity!

Around Antares, even as the sky continued to lighten, some of the main Scorpio stars were holding their own. Tau Scorpii to the south, sigma Scorpii to the northeast and i Scorpii to the northwest. Of course, higher up, Acrab, Dschubba and Pi Scorpii. 

 

To the left / east of Mercury, Sabik was easily seen in both pairs of binoculars. Then, I noticed that further eastward from Sabik, 4th magnitude Nu Serpentis had pushed beyond the roof of the house next door and was noticeable in both binoculars despite the creamy color of the sky. Antares and Mercury were still naked eye sights but beginning to fade. I continued to scan this section of the sky for a time until I noted that Nu Serpentis had disappeared while using the Vixen 10x50s. Shifting back to the Celestron 15x70s it was still there. 

 

It was nearly 6:30AM and quite light now. The crows that come to town from the nearby mountains every morning were cawing their approach. I directed the 10x50s at them and tracked a flock of five heading my way — and then, white planet Mercury appeared behind the 5 black birds in the otherwise silent surroundings. Pretty mystical ambiance but I had to get inside as my toes were aching from the cold. As you are aware, shoes are not worn indoors in Jap an but sandal-like slippers are used on balconies for such tasks as hanging laundry. So I was only wearing sandals for 2 hours in the cold. My arms and back were aching from holding the binoculars for the same time period (tripod you fool!) but it was worth it, IMHO.

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Great report Ralph and a good indication of the enjoyment that can be had with binoculars 

Kerry 

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Great read Ralph, some lovely sights and a real sense of atmosphere. Don't forget that tripod next time :)

ps Are thick socks allowed? ;) 

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2 hours ago, Stu said:

Great read Ralph, some lovely sights and a real sense of atmosphere. Don't forget that tripod next time :)

ps Are thick socks allowed? ;) 

Thanks, Stu. Yeah, the tripod would have made things easier as time went on. I did lean the 15x70 on the balcony fence and horizontal laundry poles from time to time. Thicker socks are a must. At least I wore a hooded jacket and I (probably) have enough sense that had it begun raining, I would have gone inside. ?

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Great report and I'm envious of your latitude.  I am quite surprised though that you don't have a hot bath on your balcony from which you could observe :wink:.  As a frequent visitor to Japan I have been lucky in finding such facilities, mainly in Ryokan.  As you and I know though, no cozzy allowed!

Edited by Owmuchonomy
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8 hours ago, Owmuchonomy said:

Great report and I'm envious of your latitude.  I am quite surprised though that you don't have a hot bath on your balcony from which you could observe :wink:.  As a frequent visitor to Japan I have been lucky in finding such facilities, mainly in Ryokan.  As you and I know though, no cozzy allowed!

Thank you for the reply, Owmuchonomy. I’ve noticed that my latitude gives me some extra benefits looking south when compared to info of what can be seen from the UK and Europe. I sometimes wish I were more northerly when the occasional typhoon comes skirting through here in late summer and autumn, though. 

Yeah, a hot tub on the balcony would be great. It would give the neighbors something to talk about — the foreigner has finally lost it ?. 

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