Dec 28

I Saw Uranus; It Was Really Small

Go ahead.  Giggle it up!  I’ll proceed with the post, bloviate a bit and then explain why it actually shouldn’t be as funny as it is.  Well, I take that back.  See, to geriatric Millennials such as myself, it will ALWAYS be funny!  Who wouldn’t think it hysterical to go to class and learn about their anus?  I digress….

Anyway, kids, someone has to be the adult in the room (let me know if you find one).

So, to get back on point, I did observe Uranus through my 6″ (150mm, for the non-‘mericans) dobsonian telescope.  The funny thing, besides the name, is that I saw it and didn’t even realize it until now, about two months later.  Allow me to explain.

Back in October, the 14th to be exact, I was intently searching for the seventh planet from the Sun with my newly acquired Orion XT6 Dobsonian telescope.  It’s worth pointing out that I’m basically new to telescopes in general.  I was also using a brand new 9mm eyepiece.  Uranus was, at this particular time, approximately 45° above the eastern horizon.  During the course of my search for the planet, which was located within the constellation Ares, I came upon something intriguing.  I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.  Was it a galaxy?  Nebula?  I didn’t know, but it looked so cool and unique that I knew it had to be something special and that I had to take a picture of it.

© 2022 Walker Franklin.

That was the first image I took.  Single frame shot, holding my phone up to my new 9mm eyepiece.  But as you can see there’s nothing spherical about this object so, of course, it couldn’t have been the planet I was seeking.  Because it looks more elongated, I thought I had stumbled upon a distant galaxy.  It kind of looks like….a cigar?

I managed to get another, perhaps better, shot on my next attempt…


As you can see this pic throws the galaxy theory into question.

So began my search for the answer to what, exactly, it is I observed that October night.  If you read my post, “ET Phone Home,” you’ll know two things about me.

1.)  I am a novice fumbling his way through amateur astronomy autodidactically and am, therefore, prone to observing celestial objects of note without even realizing it.

2.)  I am no stranger to the Redditt ‘Telescope’ community.

As I mentioned in the “ET” post, I realized the significance of that observation only after discovering a post on Reddit with a VERY similar picture posted.  The ‘telescope‘ community also helped me when I was unsure whether I had observed M32 or M110, both satellite galaxies of Andromeda.

But, when seeking useful information that may have helped me identify what I had observed and photographed, the snarky people were online that day.  Such individuals believe that knowledge of celestial coordinates is an inherent ability. I just figured out how to use a red dot finder, for crying out loud!  I’m getting to coordinates next, I promise!

(As a side note, I gotta say that my favorite posts to read are the ones titled something like, “I Saw Uranus“!  Without a doubt, those generate the longest, most in-depth response threads of all.  I promise, kids, it’ll never get old!)

Anyway, I searched every resource I came across in effort to find out what, exactly, I had seen and photographed.  Stellarium Web is the resource I credit with the conclusion that, while fiercely searching for Uranus, what I had actually observed was Uranus……just out of focus!

Now for the joykill.

Uranus is the only planet in our solar system to be named after a Greek god.  All the others get their names from Roman gods.  So, being in the minority, poor ole Uranus’ name gets Romanized.

See, kids, “Uranus” is actually a misnomer. The Greek god of the sky is actually, Ouranos.  Pronounced ooh-RAH-nos.  How anti-Hellenic of the Romans!  (and a little perverted, but we expect that from them.)

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