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Saturn in a 12.5, wed morning 3-27

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#1 george golitzin

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 07:12 PM

I recently completed a 12.5 inch scope that rides nicely on an old, refurbished Tom O platform. On the night of 3/26 (that is, early on 3/27), it rewarded me with a captivating view of Saturn at 530X, which I have attempted to represent here in a "sketch." Quotation marks, because it was a bit of a cheat: I started with an astrophoto, then photoshopped the heck out of it until I had a featureless white ball and featureless rings, with indications of their separation: this I used as a template on which to sketch...

As for the observation, I began with sucker holes in a light cloud layer but fairly steady seeing; around 2 am, however, almost at transit, I had clear sky and a good view--not rock solid, but with enough momentary calm to see a fair amount of detail. Banding was very nice, with an obvious wide light zone at the equator, a broad darker band through the tropical and temperate regions, and a very narrow light zone just north of this. The north polar region was exceptionally dark, and at some point I thought I spied a light zone running around it, but I have not drawn this--it was too fleeting. The Crepe ring was beautiful across the planet's face and into the ansae (I have not rendered its shape very well here); the Encke minima were visible in the A ring, and the usual darkening of the B ring near the ansae as well. Cassini shimmered in the seeing, but was clearly visible all the way around--at one point, I thought it looked lighter where it crossed the planet, but I don't know if current illumination makes that possible, and it was probably a bit of imagination. The shadow of the planet on the rings was noted--it always heightens the sense of 3-dimensionality--I confess I photoshopped this part of my drawing after scanning it, because I couldn't make it dark enough; likewise I photoshopped the bit of space interior to the crepe ring to get it dark enough. Of the moons I only noted Titan, Rhea, Dione and Tethys.

I was extremely happy to have tracking--something I've done without since selling my old 6-inch Intes mak 10 years ago--as seeing supported quite high power for occasional moments. I was also surprised by how nice the view was, given the planet's current location in Libra, and thus for me a maximum altitude of 39 degrees.

Observation was at 2 am PDT (9:00 UT) on 27.3.13. The scope is based on an f/5.9 mirror ground by Ed Beck and reputed to be refigured by Carl Zambuto; it sports a nice 2.1 inch secondary from Protostar. Eyepiece was a Pentax 3.5mm XW for 530X.

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#2 buddyjesus



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Posted 31 March 2013 - 07:57 PM

nice sketch. i have noticed a blunting at the pole and your drawing reveals that the pole is darkened. i see plenty of ring detail not visible in my scope too. Makes me eager to save up the money to buy a z12 someday.

#3 Scanning4Comets



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Posted 01 April 2013 - 04:47 AM

That's pretty much same view I had of Saturn last Saturday morning at about 5am, with my view a bit more tilted as it had moved since 2 am. I let my scope cool for 2 hours before I went in my backyard to view it. I used my 7mm Pentax XW + 2" GSO barlow element + 2" blue fireball extension tube, which gives me roughly 300x.

Nice sketch!


#4 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 05:05 AM

A most impressive sketch. Thanks for the view.

Rich (RLTYS)

#5 nirvanix


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Posted 01 April 2013 - 10:07 AM

That's a great sketch and the features you were able to notice at 500x magnification indicate a very good mirror regardless of the pedigree.

#6 george golitzin

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 01:20 PM

Thanks everyone! I haven't said goodbye to Jupiter yet, but it was nice to say hello to Saturn, and I really enjoyed the opportunity for a crisp view, since these have been few and far between lately. I was quite surprised at how dark the polar region was.


#7 Dean Norris

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 03:21 PM


Excellent sketch of Saturn. Seeing that supported 530x must have been special. Catching Encke's minima is cool. I'll be looking for that the next time I get great seeing. I wonder if at that power the hex feature at the pole would be visible. I never heard of anyone actually seeing this but maybe it's possible.

Thanks for posting. Dean

#8 george golitzin

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:39 AM

Thanks Dean. I was really struck by how dark the polar region was, but I didn't get close to resolving the hexagon feature. That's shown up nicely in some recent photos though--it is the weirdest thing.

I'm hoping to get a couple more good nights this apparition--Saturn is so low for us northerners, but once in a while, one might hope for a clear view.


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