Though it was a clear night, the full moon meant it was less than ideal for deep sky observations, so I focussed my attention on our solar system due to the high surface brightness of its objects. There were two aims for the night – to complete the planets and to see my first asteroid.
With this in mind, I opened Cartes du Ciel to get a star chart showing the position of Vesta, just past opposition at magnitude 6.5. Though almost due south, it was still low in the sky and once found resembled a star of the same magnitude, with no disc discerned. With only one planet remaining unfound, I then looked for the location of Neptune and slowly tracked it down. Once again, it was stellar in appearance and I did not notice much colour, an unspectacular end to my quest to see every planet.
With Jupiter too low to fully appreciate I decided to hunt down Ceres, the largest asteroid and a dwarf planet. It was only just rising and very close to the Moon, meaning that no stars could be seen through the finderscope, making it very difficult to locate. Once stars of a reasonable magnitude were found, the patterns could be compared to star charts to determine where the scope was pointing. Once this was done, I star hopped to the position of Ceres. Sure enough, after an inconvenient cloud had moved, there appeared to be a magnitude 7.7 star in the exact location predicted.
A short amount of time was spent looking at the Moon while Jupiter was rising but when clouds swept across the field of view I turned to the King of the Planets. All four of the Galilean Moons were visible, along with the equatorial belts on the planet, with the difference in colour and width observed. Io was approaching the planet and its shape could be seen shadowed against the Southern Equatorial Belt. As I watched it transit Jupiter’s disc, clouds finally filled the whole sky depriving me of the chance to try and observe the moon itself pass in front of the planet.
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