Star Log 2023-09-10 (Fairbanks, AK, USA, publ. 2023-09-12)

Last Sunday (Sept 10) I had a brief opportunity for stargazing early in the morning, about 3am. The clouds mostly cleared away early that morning, so I went out to the boat launch. The boat launch itself was stuffed with campers and assorted folk, but providentially I found an unoccupied pull-off area a little further down the highway, which I noticed when I accidentally missed my turn-off into the boat launch. The pull-off area had a decent view of the skies in most directions, though I occasionally had to deal with the bright lights of passing vehicles. And i had a view of the city lights, through some spruce trees:

Fairbanks city lights

For about 30 minutes, the skies seemed especially dark (for that spot) though there was some noticeable twinkle. I could see the milky way toward the west, in the opposite direction of the city lights. For the first fifteen minutes, I played around with my S5300 camera and tripod, trying to see if I could manage to get some decent wide-angle night sky photos. Unfortunately, even the night landscape mode doesn't gather much light. But I was able to get something usable later, using the Levels function in GIMP. Here is one of the Big Dipper:

Big Dipper

Here is one looking towards the south-east, where you can see the Pleiades, bright Jupiter, and Taurus:

towards the south-east

It seems that the S5300 has no way to allow manually setting the exposure time of the camera, like a bulb mode, but I found out later that there is a "fireworks" mode with a larger exposure of four seconds, which I would like to try out some time.

Something interesting right now is that Uranus is located in the sky about halfway between the Pleiades and Jupiter, making it pretty easy to find with binoculars:

Stellarium screenshot showing location of Uranus

Of course, you are going to need something more powerful than binoculars to see more than a dot, due to the great distance to that planet.

Thick clouds rolled in at about 3:30, and I had to head home. I would have liked to do more observing, but I was very tired that morning, so it was good to be able to get another hour or two of sleep before needing to get ready for church.

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