February 9, 2004 3:30 UT
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder

Planet diameter: 20"
Rings diameter: 46"

Saturn's rings are still wide open, which makes for a spectacular view at 388X in the 10-inch Starfinder. It's not a rock steady image at that magnification but is good enough. I also used 247X with an 80A light blue filter in making the sketch at left. Saturn's southern hemisphere is inclined toward Earth by about 26 degrees. My template is designed for a 28-degree tilt, so it's a bit off. The planet's disk shows a distinct phase, the following limb lost within a shadowy murk. A very subtle Equatorial Belt is seen within the light hued Equatorial Zone. To the south, a more prominent South Equatorial Belt (SEB) wraps the disk. South of the SEB, the atmosphere takes on a distinctly gray tone. Snippets of more southerly belts are seen and the South Polar Region is shrouded beneath a smoky gray cap.

As usual, the ring system shows a wealth of detail. The innermost C or Crepe ring presents as a charcoal gray band. It is slightly transparent, Saturn's disk being visible through the Crepe ring. The inner third of the B ring has its usual dusky pallor. The outer portion of this ring is much brighter. In fact, this is the brightest of all the major Saturnian rings. The Cassini Division separates the B and A rings. Encke's minima, the smoky central portion of the A ring, can be traced most of the way around this outermost ring. The seeing simply isn't good enough for the elusive Encke division to be seen.

January 23, 2005 January 21, 2002


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