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The Webfooted Astronomer - October 2001

 

Two Beautiful Conjunctions Separated by a Day of Tragedy

By Randy Johnson et al

LIKE many Americans, and many people of the free world, I had a hard time sleeping the night of September 11. At about 3:30 am I awoke to the distant sound of jet engines. Nearly certain that it was one of the sorties of military aircraft patrolling the skies above Puget Sound, I pulled on clothes and walked into the backyard, gazing skyward. A single jet at probably 20,000 feet rumbled by. Drawn to the moon, I noticed that it had a brilliant companion.

Jupiter was approaching the Moonís southern horn. The telescope was still set up on the patio from Mondayís Lunar and Saturnian dance. The mirror had benefited from the entire night of equilibration.

Better than even the view of Mondayís event, the telescope performed without flaw. Seeing again was excellent with cloud bands too numerous to count. The approach of the Jovian disc was not as near to the Moon as that of Saturn on Monday, but it was easily inside of 10 Jupiter widths.

More than once tears filled my eyes as-like the banking of the aircraft before its impact into the WTC-Jupiter, flanked by a pair of moons on either side, appeared to be tilted over the mountains on the moonís terminator. It is ironic that, unlike Monday morning when I was aware of the Saturn-Moon conjunction, I was totally unaware of this repeat with Jupiter. On another morning, a jetís noise would have been of no consequence, and I would have slept right through it.

In the last few hours we have all seen horrors that lead to questions about the fragility of human existence. Dear friends, I wish you all a better day. -Randy Johnson

Finding solace in the night sky

September 11 was indeed a horrible day. We are all grieving and shocked by the senseless carnage. Each person deals with it in their own way, according to their own beliefs. I know that I find solace in contemplating the night sky. Understanding how small we are compared to the rest of the universe, and yet how precious and rare life is-particularly our ability to contemplate the universe and our place in it-helps put things in perspective for me.-Paul S. Walsh

A universal perspective

One of the reasons I am working with school kids through Project ASTRO is not only to help them understand science, but also to give them a global-no universal-perspective on life and how we should view and treat others.

I very much value my friendships in the SAS. We all realize that we all live on a ďpale blue dot.Ē I think that one of SASís unwritten goals ought to be to spread that message to those we come in contact with. Peace.-Greg Donohue

Mondayís Spectacular Moon-Saturn Conjunction

I worked all night Monday, into the wee hours of the morning, and watched the Moon progress closer to Saturn over the course of several hours. What a wonderful way to sense the movement of the heavens! The sky stayed clear all throughout the night, and the cool evening had the feeling of autumn in it. Seeing Auriga and Orion on the horizon below added to this confirmation. Upon arriving home I was too tired to bring out the scope, and opted to view the spectacle naked eye until too drowsy to see well. Now that I have a scope, I often forget about the enjoyment that can be had from naked eye viewing. A local CCD guru, Ron Wodaski, posted a spectacular image of the event at www.wodaski.com/wodaski/images/new/FCT150/moon_sat2x.jpg.-Mark de Regt

Monday morning the whole sky was just amazing spanning from a dazzling Venus near the horizon sweeping up past Jupiter and then to a zenith crowned with the Lunar/Saturn tango. I took a couple of digital camera shots of the Saturn fly-by. Iíve posted them at the top of my imaging page at http://www.nwlink.com/~filmdos/m111/pictures.htm. -Paul S. Walsh

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