Astronomy Season Begins (publ. 2023-09-05)

For me here in Fairbanks, Alaska, astronomy season doesn't start until September, since there isn't enough darkness before that for practical stargazing. I'm on an early-morning life schedule, so it doesn't work for me to stay up until midnight to see the stars. But now there is enough darkness for me to be able to do early morning sessions (around 4am) before work.

Most nights these last few weeks have been overcast skies, but there was a forecast of partly cloudy early this morning, so I decided to head out early to the boatlaunch, away from the light pollution, and give it a try. Indeed, it was partly cloudy this morning, but I was thwarted by a thick, low-lying fog, which blocked out all the stars and obscured the third-quarter moon.

Fortunately, after I drove back home to get ready for work, the fog had cleared up somewhat, and I had a decent view of the moon high in the sky. I still had a few minutes to spare, so I grabbed my old az-el Jupiter telescope and did a few minutes of observing at lowest magnification. I remember having a good view of the Theophilus crater, along the terminator, as well as a bunch of craters north of Mare Serenitatis. Here is a reproduction from Stellarium, though my view looked crisper and more beautiful than the Stellarium bitmap:

Moon in Stellarium (4:30am)

Jupiter was nearby, so I swung over a little to that, observing four moons and a nearby star:

Jupiter in Stellarium

Jupiter in Stellarium, with labels

The Auriga constellation was also visible, as well as Cassiopia, but I didn't have time for additional observation.

So, it wasn't quite the long session I was hoping for, but I am thankful to the Creator for a good opportunity to enjoy the moon and Jupiter for about twenty minutes.

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