Most amateur astronomers shudder at the thought of observing with a highly visible moon or a heavily light-polluted sky from manmade lighting. However, a recent couple of nights observing serves to illustrate the value of observing what you can see — even when conditions are not good in a classical sense. The first part of the story…..
It was one of those clear but high moon evenings. We were in the country about 10 miles from Ashdown Arkansas, so the light pollution was pretty much from the moon, which I observed for an hour. The heavens still beckoned, however, so I turned my attention to open clusters to the North and East. Open clusters are a delight to observe under these conditions because you can still see many of them and the most prominent stars that one uses to find them can still be used to “star-hop” to where you want to go. In this case, since we teach observing overseas from binoculars to small refractors to one 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain, I wanted to capture NGC 663 using 3 methods: the 50 mm finder scope, the 8 inch with a low power eye piece, and the 8 inch with higher power using the assistance of astro video to see the finer stars. Here is the result in a composite observing sheet:
As we teach observing from a Biblical creation foundation, we cover several scriptures that are nearly identical to one at the top of the observing sheet. I can only imagine the hand of God, having established the earth and its primary characteristics, stretching out the heavens: the solar system, our moon, the local neighborhood stars in our galaxy city, the extended universe, and the huge amount of empty clear space in the midst of all of it–not to mention the laws, motions, and complexities that we have only begun to observe in a tiny way. So NGC-663 is but a little village of stars that is relatively close and well within our own galaxy, but it is still beautiful. The 50mm finder view is about the same as the 35mm binocular view that my Philippine friends would see. The 32mm Plossl view with the 8 inch is about what they would see with a higher magnification eye piece on their 80 mm refractors that we gave them. And the detailed view they could only see under excellent conditions with a shorter focal length eye piece on the 8 inch. Each view is unique; each on brings out different aspects of the cluster. All of them speak to just a wee wee tiny bit of God’s creativity, which is more than enough to go with the scripture from Psalm 104.
The second story and observing sheet is with light pollution but is done with eyes alone. Here is the link to take you directly to the observing sheet and story: http://christworksministries.org/inspiration_light_fight
So even under moon and man originated light pollution, the heavens are still magnificent.
It is a good day to give thanks to the One who made them, in part, to point to His own attributes of power but also love: permitting us to see and enjoy His handiwork.