A good night with guests last night where after a windy but fabulous sunset we travelled to one of the few spots that are sheltered when the wind blows that hard and enjoyed a lovely night under the stars.
The Orion Nebula (Messier 42) was visible to the naked eye, looked great in binoculars and fantastic close up in the telescope with our new high-end eyepiece. You could clearly see the central stars of The Trapezium and details of the gas and dust clouds. We’re getting towards the end of Orion season and Orion was already low in the sky but this stargazing location allows us to see it right down to the horizon and conditions were fair to us with it remaining clear until very low. To the right we were able to see the famous star cluster, The Pleiades or Seven Sisters (Subaru in Japanese) another excellent binocular target and overhead, the Beehive Cluster in Cancer was dazzling. The constellation of Auriga, The Charioteer offered its usual collection of small clusters that are great fun to surf with binoculars and we saw many, very bright satellites, one or two moving very quickly. After a slow start we spotted a few shooting stars maintaining our record of never having had a night without them!
Towards the end of the stargazing, Hercules was rising in the North and we watched the famous globular cluster Messier 13, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, looking like a glowing football of stars. If you haven’t seen a glob before, they are quite fascinating to look at. Then, what a finale! As we were waiting in the hope of one last shooting star we were rewarded with a super-bright fireball almost directly overhead that we all saw and which lasted around 1.5 to maybe 2 seconds, a long time for a shooting star. This appeared to be quite low in the atmosphere with a very bright and greenish head and a very obvious trail left behind it, almost like a firework would do. We wouldn’t have been surprised to heard the sound of an impact but if this had made it to the earth it most likely fell in the sea, although La Gomera was in its line of direction!
On the way home we were rewarded in seeing the waning Moon rising over the crater walls of Las Canadas and stopped for a closer look with the binoculars. Just spectacular. A little further on and we could just see Jupiter rising on the horizon and stopped once more to look at that in the binoculars too. The giant planet showing clearly as a disc rather than a twinkly star. All in all a very good night of stargazing, bring on the next one! Clear skies everyone!