After a mostly blue sky day which held out the prospect of a clear night, it was disappointing to find that the clouds had rolled in by 8:00pm. Checks at 9:00 & 9:30pm revealed much the same, with not even Jupiter visible through the murk.
A little snooze for both after an afternoon’s gardening was the unintended next move, only to be woken by Yvette just after 11pm with the news that it was now clear! So sadly we missed the disappearance of the planet if it was clear, did anyone see it?
A frantic few minutes getting equipment out before the 11:21pm reappearance, luckily one small scope was ready to go so Yvette was in place by 11:18pm while I was still attaching the tube to a second mount and trying to get it setup in time. Just as she excitedly announced ‘It’s there!’ I got the scope in focus and yes, there it was, a tiny blue green orb emerging from behind the Moon’s dark limb. Even the owls were getting excited with some fantastic ‘hooting’!
This was the first occultation of Uranus visible from Bedford since 2007 and we almost missed it completely!
After a few more minutes and a tour of the Moon we switched to Saturn before it set behind some trees. The scopes were still a little warm but some subtle detail was visible on the planet along with the crisp rings and several moons.
By 12:30am we moved on to Jupiter, the scopes were cool and the planet looked stunning riding high in the southeast. The Great Red Spot was just emerging into view and there was excellent moments of steady seeing, but sadly the clouds rolled in again just after 1:15am and that was the end of an excellent session.
I hope other BAS members got to see the event, I know it featured in Darren’s recent Sky Notes. I was not set up to take photos, I had rather given up in the early evening but there will be some good shots on the internet I’m sure. All times mentioned are BST
This was the third of six occultations of Uranus this year, but the first visible from the U.K.
Europe will miss the events in October and November but there is a chance to see one again in the early evening of December 5th , just prior to an occultation of Mars on December 8th.
We have some excellent planetary observing to look forward to this Autumn, keep an eye on emails and the BAS website for further details.
Linton & Yvette Guise
(image credit: Sky At Night)