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Thread: Can you really see Neptune et al?

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    Default Can you really see Neptune et al?



    One of these days my sister said she wanted to see Pluto through the telescope; I rolled my eyes at the silly idea and proceeded to check how much bigger than my scope's the aperture would need to be. It turned out that it can be seen with a 10'' under good conditions, so I quietly unrolled my eyes and included Neptune, Uranus and Pluto in our plan for last night session (will do a proper report later!), which were the only planets available.

    We found none of them. We spent a good while searching for Neptune and Pluto, both with the 26mm eyepiece (x50) and the 6.7mm (x190). We didn't see anything that didn't look like a star. Unfortunately, light pollution was pretty bad to the SE.

    So, I'd like to ask, is it really possible to see them with the 10'' under anything else than perfect conditions? Do they appear to have any volume? Or do they look very similar to stars? Any help on how to identify them?
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    With 10" of aperture, under good to excellent seeing conditions, you can 'see' both Neptune and Pluto visually - 'see' is a relative term, as both will appear to be point sources, i.e. look like a star, vs. a planetary disc. If you know the field well enough, with patience, you can identify both Neptune and Pluto by position within their respective fields.

    However, you won't resolve either as a planet, or see any surface detail, or in the case of Neptune, blue coloration.

    I regularly observe both targets through our 2.1m (82") telescope, when they are appropriately visible. Neptune resolves as a blue disc, and Triton, along with Nereid, easily resolve as point sources. Pluto is more challenging, at f/13 (28,000mm) of focal length with a 10mm (2800x), nearly perfect seeing is required to resolve it as a disc.
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    I did a little bit of Neptune hunting myself last night. I didn't have charts or anything, so I used the circles on the dob, and Stellarium.

    I *might* have seen a small, blue pinpoint of light, but I may have imagined it too. It was still very low on the horizon, and I do not trust that it was it. I will keep pecking until it is further up in the sky, then I will print out a guide chart and make an actual effort at finding it!
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    I've never tried for Pluto, but I have seen Uranus and Neptune in my 8" scope with moderate light pollution (orange-yellow zone). Uranus is blue-green and noticeably planetary. It is very small, but still a disk. Neptune is also blue-green, but is almost stellar in appearance. If you look carefully at it, you can tell is is not quite as sharp as a star. The colour is the best clue.
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    I have had the same experience as Keith probably with the same telescope. 8" SCT? Uranus is a small, blue-green disc and you can definitely tell it is a planet not a star. Neptune was blue for me, but definitely more star like in appearance. I tried for Pluto and may have spotted it with averted vision, but I can't be sure, so I call it a negative. I bet in a dark sky you would be able to resolve Pluto.

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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    I have seen both Uranus and Neptune with the AR127 from a "green" zone location and could resolve both to a disk, though Neptune was more like a dot, but clearly non-stellar and blue. With the Z10 at home ("orange" zone), I have easily seen both as a disk, plus I have seen Triton, Neptune's brightest moon at mag 13.5. That same night, I also believe that I saw Uranus' brightest moon, mag 13.9 Titania. However, I am not quite as certain about that one as I am about Triton. My presumed Titania sighting was very fleeting, whereas Triton was held steady, but dim. At that level of dimness, just 4/10 of a magnitude makes a difference visually. I utilized the Sky & Telescope interactive tool javascript files to find the correct position for both moons, which helped in making the identification.

    I have not attempted Pluto, but that is a very tricky situation. You should have more than 10 inches to be honest to improve your chances and dark skies. It will continue to fade over the coming decades, and slip farther south in declination. In fact, none of us will see it any brighter than it is now given its position in its orbit. Also complicating the situation is the fact that it lies in a very rich star field in Sagittarius. You have to have a very detailed chart, and once you can confirm you're in the correct field, you need to sketch the field (or image it), then repeat the observation the next available night again sketching (or imaging) the field. Then compare the two to see which "star" has moved. Such as in the two images linked below, showing how that imager found it.

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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    Im excited when Uranus and Neptune creep up high enough in the horizon that I can see 'em. Soon enough!
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    For Uranus and Neptune, a good chart is also very important, as they may not appear so different from the field stars upon first sight. So you need to know exactly what you're looking for and where. It pays to move very slowly so your eyes have a chance to adjust to the field, and look for the unusual color of Uranus (greenish to blue-green) and Neptune (blue-green to blue). The exact shade of color one sees can vary from person to person as it depends on how your eye/brain interprets the color, much in the same way as seeing color in planetary nebulae.
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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    will i be able to see neptune / uranus with my 8SE?

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    Default Re: Can you really see Neptune et al?

    Quote Originally Posted by moonstar View Post
    will i be able to see neptune / uranus with my 8SE?
    Yes.I have seen both several times (blue/grey zones) with 8SE and 8in Dob. Even saw Titania twice when seeing was exceptionally good (8SE). These planets are a real treat to see. The colours are special. Good hunting!
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