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Saturday, July 26, 2003

One of the reasons I came to California this week was the close pairing of Mercury and Jupiter in the western sky on Friday evening:

I put the Schwar six inch into the car and headed east to Palomar Mountain, home to the famous Hale observatory. I figured, that no matter how much costal haze there was, the view from the top of the mountain would be unimpeded. The large water mass of the Pacific Ocean would help to calm the air, so that the nearly horizontal shot through nine hundred miles of air would not be totally destroyed by turbulance.

The top of the mountain is about fifty miles from the coast, so I gave myself three hours to get there and set up, because the traffic on the Pala highway is sometimes heavy. As it happened, Billy Bob Thornton was performing so, yes, there were a lot of cars, but there usually are. (What kind of live show does Thornton do?)

Upon reaching the summit, I began to look for a western view. The sun was near setting, so it was easy to tell if a spot was suitable. I came upon Bruce Watson's maintenance station in the park, which not only had a wonderful western view but a large clearing with a flattened surface and no trees to get in the way:

I got ready just in time to watch the sun set:

The glow from the sunset obscured the sky for about half an hour. By then the planets were quite low, which left me only fifteen minutes of to observe them:

1/15 sec, 6 inch f/4.9 Schwar reflector, 35mm erfle, Nikon 950 camera

I did not attempt to photograph Jupiter alone, but wish I had now, for comparison to earlier images. Mercury (below) is shown at about 1250X, 250 from the telescope optics, and 5X digitally. Except for cropping, no image processing was done:

1/4 sec, 6 inch f/4.9 Schwar reflector, 6mm ortho., Nikon 950 camera


© Copyright 2003 by Chris Heilman.