Star Log 2022-09-23 04:00 AKDT (Fairbanks, AK, US)

Having had only overcast skies for days and days, I was eager to latch on to any opportunity. OpenWeather had forecasted a brief drop in the cloud cover in the early morning, so I gave it a try, getting up around 2am. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was still pretty bad, around 80% I'd guess. I tried to work with it, but the problem was that the clouds were moving pretty fast, so that once I got my sights trained on something, it would get covered up by clouds within about five minutes. So, if you are looking for an exciting post, you'll want to skip the rest of this entry.

On the whole, it was disappointing, but it was an interesting challenge to try to orient myself to the sky when only about a fifth of it is visible through random gaps in the cloud cover. I've been getting better at using the star charts that are marked according to sidereal hours. I also found this helpful sidereal time calculator:

Sidereal Time Calculator For Any Date, Time and Longitude

I like that one in particular because it doesn't require the use of any JavaScript. I've been trying to look for a lightweight free software utility that can do the same thing offline, but I haven't found one yet. I can get it out of Stellarium, but loading up Stellarium just to get sidereal time seems a bit overkill.

Something interesting was that, around 3am, Cassiopia was almost directly overhead.

Cassiopia overhead

Close-up of Cassiopia

This made sense from the charts since Cassiopia is around +60° decl and my latitude is about +65°. Overhead targets are appealing due to less atmosphere to shoot through, but it is also a lot more difficult to view them in my telescope with its small mount. I have to be pretty much laying on the ground to look through the eyepiece.

I found Jupiter quickly enough towards the south, just above the treeline. But the cloud conditions were causing it to frequently be obscured or drop out of view entirely, so I didn't make any progress there. All amateur astronomers are keenly aware that Jupiter is very close right now.

Position of Jupiter (4am)

Once I knew where Cassiopia was, it wasn't too hard to find Mirfak again, recognizable by the half-circle of stars underneath it. I got a few seconds looking at it with the binoculars, but not enough time to work it with the telescope.


A patch cleared up for a little while towards the West, and I could see the top part of Cygnus sticking out above my apartment building.

Top portion of Cygnus

I got a quick glance at the Pleiades, but little more than a glance.

Tiny Pleiades

I don't recall getting any view of Taurus or Mars through the cloud cover.

The northern sky was clear for a long time, and I remember seeing Polaris and the Big Dipper. Unfortunately, as soon as I finally decided to focus on that part of the sky, a batch of clouds swallowed them up. I'm not in the habit of looking much at the northern sky, because so much of it is blocked by my apartment and by a tall bank.

Polaris and the Big Dipper

In conclusion, I'm not sure if it would not have been better to stay in bed. But it was a helpful exercise in calculating star positions, and also I got to try out my new red LED flashlight.

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