Not looking, but paying attention


My 5″ scope is a good little thing, but rarely shows more than three or four of Saturn’s moons.  Since getting the 10″ I’ve been too fascinated by the planet itself to pay proper attention to its moons, but the eyepiece cleaning session was part of a moon campaign.   I also fiddled with Stellarium until I could generate a finder chart for eight of the moons (three more than on the Sky and Telescope online utility) because if I know where to look, it helps me learn how to look.

Last night I had one narrow hour of possible observing between our own Moon going behind the house, and Saturn dropping into the hedge.  I aligned the finders while I waited, collimated the secondary as well as the primary, inserted one of my shiny eyepieces, and peered.

That cleaning was worth the bother.  I could see five moons in a crisp little bevy, and studying the proper place I located Mimas almost at once – my first definite sighting of this one.  Hyperion was a challenge too far; remote from any convenient markers on which to triangulate, and the faintest of the eight, it was excessively difficult to not look at the possible location (averted vision a sine qua non), while paying it the most concentrated attention.

After uncrossing my eyes, there was just time to hunt for Iapetus.  Brighter than Mimas, out on its own like Hyperion, but with a handy star to use as a locator – I found a something at the approximate place.  Unfortunately I found two somethings, and I can’t account for the second.  Eyestrain artefact?  Background star omitted by Stellarium? I’m fairly confident about Iapetus, though, so that’s probably another first.

A heavy dew was falling, and I knew I would have to get up this morning, so I reluctantly called time. And tonight it is cloudy again.


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