You’re going into another evening without electricity, you don’t feel like reading, and that last game of candlelit Monopoly had heated accusations that the banker was worse than Goldman Sachs. What else is available?
One upside to the power failure is improved conditions for stargazing. Leslie Brown, associate professor of physics and astronomy at , says light pollution is especially bad along the I-95 corridor and hinders observation of the night sky. With the power outages, however, it’s a little easier to find a quiet spot away from house and street lights and peer into the heavens. Brown said the best areas will have as much open horizon as possible.
“My recommendation is if you can get to the beach or the shoreline, or if you have a boat take your boat out,” she said.
Brown said stargazers can see the Milky Way rising in the southern sky around 9 p.m. The planets of Venus and Saturn are setting as it gets dark at this time of year, and Mars does not start to appear until about 2 a.m. Jupiter, however, clears the horizon as a bright object in the east shortly before 10 p.m. and should be visible above horizon obstacles by about 10:30 p.m. Some of Jupiter’s details are visible even with a pair of ordinary binoculars.
“You can see four moons, four of the largest Galilean satellites,” said Brown.
Jupiter has dozens of moons, but Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa are the ones that are visible. You may not see all four, however, as the moons are orbiting the gas giant and are not visible as they pass behind the planet or in front of it.
The Moon is also a good target for your binoculars, Brown said. It is currently waxing, reaching first quarter on Sunday, and she recommended viewing it on Saturday night to explore the craters, plains, and other features of the satellite.
Connecticut College regularly welcomes the public to use its observatory. The next one of these events will take place on Oct. 1. You should, hopefully, have electricity restored by then but you still might want to check it out.
Visit these links for more information:
Stargazing basics from Sky and Telescope
NASA site showing when the International Space Station is visible from Groton and at what angle.