Star Log 2022-09-16 04:30 AKDT (Fairbanks, AK, US)
ChillyWeather (OpenWeather) had forecast overcast skies until pretty much the end of time, so I went to bed last night without any plans to do star gazing. When I got up at 3:30am, as I usually do, I took a quick glance at ChillyWeather and was shocked to discover that current conditions were reported as "few clouds" i.e., pretty much clear skies. I scrambled to get dressed, gather my star gazing tools, and get outside, as I only had a little over an hour before I needed to get ready for work. Our weather conditions have been so bad, so much, for so long, I felt like a hunter who had been hunting for a week and sees nothing, only to have a bull moose walk into camp.
The first thing on my agenda was I wanted to see if I could get a good view of Jupiter or Mars, using the small refractor telescope I had just pulled out of storage, which had been collecting dust for about ten years. I was able to find and center on these planets quickly enough, but I simply could not get a focused image of either one — just blurry discs. I suspect that the telescope hadn't had time to come to thermal equalibrium, but having only just pulled it out of long-term storage, there might have been other issues. I think the high-mag lens was dirty as well.
Disappointed with that, I decided to move on to other targets. I knew I wanted to look at the moon, but decided to save that until last. Someone had just loaned me a pair of larger 10x50 binocs, so I was eager to give those a try. I usually am not stargazing this late in the morning, so it took a while to reorient to the new position of the stars. Toward the West, I was able to recognize the top part of Cygnus, which from my yard was just sticking out above some trees. Here is the location viewed in Stellarium:
Location of Cygnus
The view was very good with the new binoculars, and something which stuck out at me right away is the interesting starfield above Deneb, the top star in Cygnus. There is one claw-shaped, or "V"-shaped, set of brighter stars which go to the left away from Deneb, and then another similar set of stars which goes up from it. Here is the view in Stellaris, though the pattern is not quite as obvious in Stellaris:
Stars near Deneb
Especially interesting, though, was this small cluster I observed a little higher up the sky. According to Stellaris, it is M 39.
Location of M 39 open star cluster
Closeup of M 39
Toward the Southeast, the viewing was somewhat spoiled by the brightness of the moon, but nonetheless I had good, comfortable view of Orion, near the horizon. I spent a while looking at the beautiful stars around the Belt:
I was also very interested in another belt of stars which I noticed a little down and to the right of Orion's Belt. It is a line of pairs of bright stars, angled perpendicular to Orion's belt. I recall being able to see some glow or haze behind it, though not as bright and colorful as in this image from Stellaris:
An interesting belt of stars near Orion's Belt
Finally I took a look at the moon, this time using my telescope. As most amateur astronomers know, a 1st or 3rd quarter moon is especially fun to look at when magnified. The angle of the sunlight hitting the moon creates dark shadows across the craters which in turn allow you to see moon with 3-D definition. I was not disappointed. Here is the image in Stellaris, and then a link to a much better photograph on earthsky.org, which was taken two days ago.
Moon (in Stellaris)
Waning Gibbous Moon, community photograph