By Jove, I Saw Ganymede!

June 24, 2008 By: erik Category: Geeky, Photos, Science, Videos 423 views

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Orange MoonLast Saturday, I was looking out the window at the full moon and noticed another unusually bright celestial object near it. Curious what it might be, I dashed to the computer to fire up Stellarium, the quickest way to identify objects in the night sky. It turned out that the bright object I was seeing was the friendly neighborhood giant, Jupiter. I grabbed my binoculars to look more closely. Once properly focused, I could just barely make out some little specks of light nearby, background stars, I presumed. Of course, I was unaware that I was making the same assumption that Galileo had made 398 years ago. Back at the computer, I zoomed in to see what the background stars were (Galileo would have liked Stellarium). It turns out that I was seeing three of the 63 Jovian moons. It was pretty thrilling to be seeing such an important detail of our solar system with just my weak little binoculars. I wouldn’t be surprised if the magnification I was using was pretty similar to that old Double-G was looking through so many years before. Very, very cool.

I tried, of course, dear readers, to capture what I was seeing using my DIY Telephoto Lens, but alas, I could not hold the cardboard keyboard box propped up on the sofa cushions on top of two stacked bar stools quite still enough. So all I’ve got is a shot of the moon from that same night and a pretty poor video I made of zooming in on the gas giant, as it was that night, in Stellarium.

Orange Moon

 
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/aparejador/2599152197/ Ray Tibbitts

    Wow, Stellarium is so much more useful than Google Sky.
    I am so glad you shared this.

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ Erik R.

    Yep. I had already been using Stellarium when Google Sky was released and I found Google Sky to be seriously underwhelming.

    If you get serious (not balancing lenses on sofa cushions) about things, Stellarium also interfaces with motorized telescopes, so you can find an object in Stellarium and then tell your telescope to point at it. I’ve never seen it in action, but I’ve heard that it works well. Pretty amazing.