A Journey Through the Constellations

With spring finally here and the snow receding, I thought I’d take a nice leisurely stroll on my bicycle down to Manotick yesterday. A friend of mine had been asking me to take her out cycling for quite some time so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to combine the two activities. As we made our way across rolling terrain, the blacktop guided us through quiet farmland and across quite a few streams now only half frozen. The sound of many birds brought music to our ears and the sun warmed our faces.

On our way home the Sun was brilliant and the sky was crystal clear. It had the early makings of a great night out for some astrophotography, and as we drew closer to home after 50 kilometers on the saddle the sky’s deep blue deepened further and the con trails from airplanes gradually became shorter. The Venus belt at sunset was especially pretty.

I didn’t end up getting out with the telescope last night, although it looked to have been a fabulous night to do so. Instead when I got home from some other activities, I stood in the backyard just staring up at the Moon and Saturn sitting nearly side by side. They must not have been more than about a binocular field apart. I stood in awe marveling at a crisp star scape filled with constellations not seen since last spring.

I remembered where Saturn was in 2009 when I first saw it through a telescope. There in Leo, its rings were nearly seen edge on. While looking at it tonight I noticed how much it has drifted in the night sky ever since, yet it dawned on me how little it had progressed in its own orbit around the Sun. After spending three years in Virgo, it has now made its way into Libra where it shall remain until 2015. I thought about how long one “year” is on Saturn. Having an orbital period of 29.44 years, you could say a year on Saturn takes an entire generation to complete!

Look to see Saturn low in the western evening sky for the next several months. As Earth journeys through its own orbit, Saturn will be at its closest to us on May 10th this year when it will be directly south at 1:00 AM (daylight savings time). Expect many images of it here in the coming months as I test out my new planetary camera on a world that is nearly 1.4 billion kilometers away from us!

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