Enjoying Jupiter

Jupiter photo by NASA/JPL/University of ArizonaJupiter offers great observing opportunities for urban astronomers. It is very bright, easy to find and shows interesting details even in small scopes. A view of Jupiter through a telescope will never fail to impress your family, friends, and neighbors. It’s relatively large size, cloud detail, and the ballet of its moons make Jupiter my favorite planet to observe. But after you’ve stared at Jupiter for the 20th time, then what? Well, here are few ideas of things to look for that should keep you busy for many nights to come...

Photo courtesy of Jupiter photo by NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.



Pluto reaches somewhere between magnitude 13.8 and 14.1 at opposition making it a rather challenging object to see from washed-out skies. But Pluto’s tiny size helps us pull it out of the light pollution: because it is star-like, we can use high magnification to improve the contrast. Even from my light polluted front yard, I’ve seen stars of this magnitude with my 10 inch Dob using moderate to high magnification (150x to 250x). So in theory, Pluto is within reach.

Unfortunately, Pluto is currently located in Sagittarius. This is not good. That puts Pluto low on the horizon (and I have a particularly cluttered southern horizon). It also brings Pluto into view during the hazy months of summer, when transparency in the Washington DC area is consistently poor. Even worse, it puts Pluto right in the middle of the Milky Way, with lots of other stars of similar brightness. if you think finding a needle in a haystack is hard, try hunting for a particular 14th magnitude star in the middle of the Milky Way....


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