Friday, April 15, 2011

Shades of Galileo

When you have a bit of time on your hands, you start looking for stuff to do and lately Galileo has been on my mind. So let's test the new Galileo scope I just built  on Saturn! The scope was a gift from the Cincinnati Observatory Center  because I do so much out reach for any and all things astronomy. Whether it is for the COC or the Cincinnati Astronomical Society or various other agencies near the Queen City, I work hard to bring astronomy into the reach of the public. The Galileo scope, birthed out of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, is a plastic telescope with remarkable lenses for the cost (about $25.00). I built it to the 25X power configuration. The scope is a 50 mm objective Refractor. It boasts a modest light gathering ability. I knew Saturn was still a nice target and it was then my quest started to take shape. I thought about what Galileo saw when he first turned his scope to this ringed beauty in the year of 1610. It was hardly a ringed anything. What he saw in his tiny scope was a planet that had moons on either side of it  or maybe it was three planets together. So there is my goal of sorts to see if my little scope of about the same power and light gathering could deliver a ringed planet or maybe with some luck and a wink from the sky gods the famed triple planet that Galileo saw in his first glimpse.

I did not have a 1610 mount on me at the time. Actually no one cared enough to write down or draw Galileo's first mount so no body knows what he used. I imagine it would have been simple and somewhat effective. Remember he wanted to get eyes on the sky as quick as possible. If that was sufficient for the father of modern astronomy... So  not to be under done I sloughed off the go to mount and opted for a super cheap spindly camera tripod. I would say this equaled the stick and string setup? that captured Jupiter and his four big moons and Saturn to boot.  We were ready for the night to descend and gaze upon its wonders.

This night was also a celebration of a birthday for our number two child of the family.  He and his wife brought their ever so inquisitive daughter, Holly. Now Holly walked right up to me on the deck and ask: Paw paw what is that? (pointing at the telescope) Holly is 2 years old and knows where the Moon is which I think is great. She pointed toward the Moon and said The Moon!  to which I said do you want to see the Moon in the telescope? She said yes and got up on my lap as I centered the Moon in the field of view. Oh yeah this would be the very first look through a telescope for her  how exciting well for me any way!. I said OK look and she did with both eyes into the eyepiece which as you might guess does not work too good.  So I had her cover one of her eyes and then look with the "working" eye. she did and what did she see?.... She said I see my eye! She was looking at the reflection of her eye in the eyepiece. Hey she's 2! what did you expect?We all got a good chuckle.

The sky was darkening and the stars started to creep into view now that the sun had given way. and there it was in all of its glory Saturn. I took time to bring the scope to rest upon this distant gas giant. I took care to slide the end in to focus his black beauty and WOW  there it was... Saturn but not the ringed one . I was the three planet variety and I started to try and get the scope refocussed but every time I did it the scope would sharpen to reveal three points of light just like Galileo saw 201 years ago! What makes this such a great thing in my book is the coincidence of looking through a Galileoscope to see the same exact site that Galileo saw those many nights ago. I can just imagine the awe and marveling at this wondrous thing called Saturn. And now some 400 years later the same awe and wonder comes from almost everyone that steps up to take a peak at Saturn. That's why when you show Saturn to someone for the first time, Galileo lives on through that Wow that comes out of their mouths. Definitely shades of Galileo...

Until next time,
Keep looking up!

Steve T

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