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Thursday, December 30th, 2004
Tonight was not ideal, but fun none the less. The sky was mostly cloudy and the ground fog came in and out. Sometime the stars were nice pinpoints, but most of the time they were fuzzy spots in the sky.

Still, I waited patiently for the moments of clarity. My goal tonight was one object: Machholz (Comet C2004 Q2).

Machholz
I was in luck. The sky was clear throught all of Taurus and with the help of Starry Night Pro, I knew exactly where to look. Machholz is currently 4.2 magnitude so if the sky was darker, this would be an easy naked eye object.

I started by finding it with the 40mm wide field (70 1.5). It was beautifully bright. I thought I could make out a tail, but in the glow of Portland and the brightness of the hazy sky, I may have been imagining it. I was facinated to see the comet so bright in the poor seeing conditions. This would be a spectacular object in a dark sky. I'm hoping for a good look at it on January 7th (near new moon night and a Friday to boot!)

The Moon
The moon was a 3/4 gibbous tonight but didn't rise until after I had an extended look at Machholz. Once it did rise, everything was pretty much gone. The moonlight in the clouds and haze along with the glow of Portland just made the sky worse. Still, there were clear patches here and there so I continued to look.

The moon drew my attention since it was 3/4 and had a nice terminator accentuating various parts. So I threw on the moon filter and spent an easy hour on the moon. Gradually going from low power to high power, I maxed out around 300x and scanned the entire surface. Because I had no intentions of looking at the moon tonight, I did not have any maps or software available to guide me through what I was observing. So I decided to take pictures to examine later.

Here are a few of the pictures.
Full Shot
Shot 1
Shot 2
Shot 3
Shot 4
Shot 5

My camera does not like taking the close-up shots. It can't see through the eyepiece very well. It seems like it requires deeper eye relief in the eyepieces in order to take better shots. I don't know. They aren't too bad though.


Saturn
Lastly, I looked at Saturn. I was able to get a very nice 300 power view of it. Storm bands, shadows, 3 dimensional planet, and a clear Cassini division. Only a few moons were visible. Titan, Tethys and Rhea. That view lasted maybe 10 or so minutes before the fog and clouds left me with a fuzzy rice shaped barely distinguishable planet.


Oh well. There are good nights and there are bad nights... then there are night like tonight that are a mixture of both.





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