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We will be adding to this page as time permits... mostly as questions come in... hence "Frequently Asked Questions". If you have something you would like to include please sent it to Chris Weadick. Thank-you
Can you see the planets from here (planet Earth)?
Yes you can see the planets even in Binoculars although improved details will be seen with a telescope and even additional details with larger aperture telescopes.
All of the planets (if you assume Pluto is not a planet... although I <Chris Weadick> still consider it a planet... our education system couldn't have been wrong... ) can be seen with binoculars but some are harder to recognize.
Venus is usually easy to recognize when it is up... because it is brighter than any other star or planet and if you have higher magnification binoculars and a steady hand you can also see that Venus has a phase like our moon.
Jupiter is also bright in the sky and easily recognizable because of it's moons form a nice straight line and are fairly easy to pick out once you see them a couple of times (they can look like stars except that they move and they cause eclipses on the surface and the moons can also be eclipsed and etc). (how many moons can you see... how many are there based on internet searches? Other planets have moons as well... check it out!)
Saturn is also easy to confirm and always a huge 'wow factor' because it has the ring (other planets have rings too... check it out!).
The other planets you are able to pick out but that is about it... not always easy to 'confirm' you saw them as they may not have a significant feature someone being introduced to astronomy may pick out like Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons.
Mercury is always low to the horizon and many people even in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) miss it when it is around because it is low and usually near sun set so you are competing with the sun and etc. Many amateur astronomers challenge each other to see who can spot Mercury first and total number of sightings.
Neptune and Uranus are also ones that do not stand out much other than they are coloured green/blue and move so they are harder for amateurs to confirm that they actually saw it.
Mars is hit and miss. You can easily find it as it is naked eye from our planet but then trying to see details can be challenging. Mars has polar caps and has the darker regions vs rusty red so sometimes you can see those hints in binoculars.
But yes... the larger the aperture (larger mirror or lens) the more you will see so telescopes do help but I always encourage those interested in astronomy to figure out the constellations and do some binocular viewing so that they are able to find their way around in the night sky like using a map... which is what the constellations also are... a map to the night sky to find other objects including comets and asteroids and etc. It can be a very exciting hobby as well as a very frustrating one as we are stuck with the weather mother nature sends our way.
Funny-ha-ha... many other sites and presenters will then also include our own planet... planet Earth as one we can see... mostly for the purpose of adding some humour but I am also concerned with the amount of light pollution. It does not only impact the hobby of astronomy and although many Government and Organizations assume myself and The RASC are concerned about light pollution because of our hobby... and 'who cares' (I invite them to say that at any Scout Canada meeting, Girl Guides, or Grade 6 class and see how comfortable thet are saying "who cares about the night sky... stars and planets and galaxies and... more!). But my larger concern is for our planet and eco system. The light has a significant impact on flora and fauna (plants and animals) of all types and although we sometimes thing it is not a big concern if a street light is added to a neighbourhood or someone leaves a yard light on for the night... that one light may not have a significant impact other than it promotes more lights as per the sprawl of lighting when it was something "in vogue" in the early electric lighting days. Lighting has many impacts but the purpose of this article was around the planets we can see... hopefully you can take some time and just www.Google.ca the terms "light pollution circadian rhythm" and maybe think twice about... do I really need a Dusk to Dawn light in my yard when no one is around to see it from 10pm to 6am anyway? What impact am I having on the local eco system and my neighbours? What message am I sending to the youth about waste and conservation (eco system and electricity and fossil fuels especially in NB)? So yes in jest we can look down at our feet and see another planet... the planet Earth... and also... what foot print are we leaving behind as our legacy?
We are usually quiet during the summer as we are helping with the star parties like at Mactaquac last weekend. There are 5 star parties the local RASC centre hosts each summer. NB.RASC.ca/meetings. There are usually around a dozen telescopes of different types and sizes and usually around 10-20 volunteers to help learn about the night sky and how to use the different telescopes and why one telesscope is different from another one. The public is ENCOURAGED to try out the telescopes before they buy so they can ensure they are selecting the size and model they want. We do not sell telescopes but provide the information for free and unbias. Some members may sell their used telescopes at times but it is infrequent and even used they will be 'like new' condition.
We are also considering a fall astronomy night at Mactaquac because the challenge with the summer is that it the sky does not get dark until late competing with bedtime routine for children and in the early fall it is also homework and other activities. The best time for observing is the mid fall to spring with the best skies being in the cold of winter.
http://www.heavens-above.com is a free website and you can log in to save your location. It will then tell you when the planets are up and provide star map of where they are in the night sky and etc. Once you are registered it is a fairly easy site to navigate. I also recommend skymaps.com they provide a free star chart for the month and on the back of the chart the objects visible are separated by "naked eye" vs "binocular" vs "telescope" so it helps in understanding what is out at night and what you would require in order to see the object.
Thank-you for your note
Good luck and clear skies!