We were volunteering up at Lick Observatory for the Music-of-the-Spheres event last saturday evening, July 30.
Smoke from the Sobranes fire lingered in the distance -- for most of the drive up there, smoke was between me and the mountain.
However, once we got closer to sunset most of the smoke above us had moved to the east, leaving really good skies.
Additionally, a breeze/wind from the south was borderline annoying.
As usual, the seeing started out kinda soft -- especially for objects close to the dome, like Jupiter, but then progressed towards steadiness as the night went on.
I had the meade 12" "RC" near the edge of the setup area, which gave us views of saturn well into the night.
A bit before sunset, i went about finding jupiter against the still fairly bright sky.
After getting rough polar alignment with a compass, and bubble-level+compass to make a crude latitude indicator, i did a resume-from-park on the mount and goto to the general area. Within a minute or two i had Jupiter in the eyepiece at low power. After centering it, and going to 250x, the view was just ok -- the seeing in that part of the sky (looking southwest from northwest of the dome) was not great.
The guests were starting to assemble before the doors opened, and this was a great opportunity for folks to see the planets.
And folks were very much taking the opportunity.
The real show was, of course, Saturn. Saturn was well positioned just east of the big dome, and would be visible until dome occultation around 11pm.
Twilight usually starts about the time the concert gets going; by the time the concert ends (and the astro part starts) we have good darkness.
Initially, we were observing saturn in the 12" with a 12mm nagler type4 yielding about 250x. (yes, probably not ideal for planetary observing purists, but it works.)
I considered switching to the 3-6mm zoom, but that clearly would have been too much power, and a bit problematic with the eye relief.
Instead, i popped in the astro-physics "advanced barlow" which is i believe about 2x.
This yielded about 500x with the 12mm type 4 -- and it turned out the seeing (and presumably the optics) could provide such magnification.
The current tilt of the rings was a fantastic view.
The cassini division was not only visible, but just huge.
Cloud bands on the planet surface were also discernible.
Needless to say, most of the guests were in awe -- many comments were along the lines "it looks like a picture, is that real?".
One thing i'm always amazed at is the seeing at Mt. Hamilton.
Saturday night was one of those great nights - worth the drive just for the few hours of observing.