“So exactly how far can your Mavica grab an image?”

Jupiter as seen through a telescope in Stokesville, VirginiaThe question is, how far can my digital camera see? Seems that it can see at least 483 million miles, as this to your left is the planet Jupiter, as seen through the telescope at the JMU Observatory out in Augusta County. Jupiter, as you probably know, is the largest planet in the solar system, containing more mass than all of the other planets combined, but still than 1% of the mass of the whole Solar System, as most of the Solar System’s mass is in the sun. At the time that this image was taken, the Great Red Spot, observed since the 1600s, was on the far side of the planet at the time this photograph was taken, which would have added a nice feature to this highly-unfocused picture of Jupiter’s disk. What happened is that the Mavica got confused, focusing on the viewfinder lens on the telescope rather than the disk of the planet behind it. While it was focusing, it momentarily saw the various zones and belts in the atmosphere, but then focused away from them, much to my dismay, producing the out-of-focus image shown here. You can see what Jupiter is supposed to look like below and to the right in this Voyager image. It’s interesting how this image of Jupiter came about getting taken, though. The trip to the observatory was born out of the success of our first extra-credit activity for Mr. Alexander’s Jupiter as seen fron one of the Voyager craftastronomy course, where we looked at the stars and the planets out on the quad at JMU with our naked eyes. I also believe that I managed to scare the heck out of Mr. Alexander with some of my comments. When he first mentioned it at the activity, my first comment was, “Who’s bringing the beer?” Of course, that’s an obvious joke – I don’t drink. Then when we were talking about the trip, bringing Doritos came up. One thing lead to another, and thus the conversation went, “Doritos, dancing, hookers…” Just logically falls into order, doesn’t it? However, Mr. Alexander, who is married, had to ask, “So what if you fall asleep? Then they’ll want to talk to me! I don’t think my wife would go for that…” Still, Mr. Alexander picked a date and time for the observatory trip, and I booked the hookers. At least that’s what I told him, anyway. He was also under the correct assumption that I was joking about the hookers, so I had fun with it, and he took it humorously, too. According to what I was telling him, I’d booked two of the finest hookers that Harrisonburg had to offer, Betty and Bertha (I deliberately chose names that sounded unsexy together). No more details – you just had to use your imagination. Still, though, the observatory trip was a complete success, with high attendance, and no hookers. I brought the Mavica and a few disks, and we saw the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, Jupiter and its moons, and Saturn and its rings. All in all, it was an awesome evening. Even got some pictures of the telescope, which was neat in itself. Next thing we’re probably going to do before the semester is out is to look at sunspots using a telescope with some filters on it.

Date posted: April 7, 2002