I know it sounds crazy, but I sort of feel responsible for the universe – especially when I send out an email inviting people to join me at Gooseberry to watch a couple of things I’ve never seen and I’m not at all sure are seeable from this light-polluted region. Guess what – they are! AT least from Gooseberry. Especially when the weather cooperates, and boy did it.
Temperatures were comfortable, the wind was calm, the ocean gorgeous. And ten of us got to see first Venus emerge in the twilight, then the slimmest sliver of a one day old – yes, exactly 24-hours old – moon. Now Venus is nice, but old hat. I would have been very disappointed if we couldn’t see it. But that moon – well, I’ve simply never seen one so young. And this was topped by something I felt was even less likely – a clear view of the zodiacal light! But first, here’s a photo of Venus and the one-day moon. Click on it for a larger version and you can see the Moon over to the right of Venus and a bit below it. We couldn’t quite fit them both in the same binocular field.
We all saw Venus and the Moon with an 80mm scope, with binoculars, and with the naked eye.
We waited until about 80-minutes after sunset – just as Venus was setting as a matter of fact, to see the zodiacal light quite plainly – it was a beautiful pearly pyramid extending from near the horizon to the Pleiades. In fact, where it seemed easiest to see was just under the Pleiades – but the contrast with the dark sky to either side made it quite easy to detect. This was great because I really was afraid there might be a light dome from Newport, RI that would cancel it out. Not so. While there was some interference near the horizon, you could trace the zodiacal light from around the Hyades to roughly 15 degrees above the horizon – and as a bonus we watched the ISS go across the sky from the northwest and vanish just as it reached the handle of the Big Dipper.
They to the success was simple – location, location, location! OK -weather was critical too. But light pollution could have made the Moon sighting more difficult and certainly would have wiped out the zodiacal light in most places along the Eastern Seaboard. Gooseberry offer some real escape from it – especially to the west and south.