Extreme Planet Hunters, Episode II: Uranus and Torcularis Septentrionalis

Click for full size.

Uranus is below Mars in this picture. Can you find it? Click to enlarge and zoom in!

Last weekend I went on an extreme hunt (from the safety of my driveway) to find the normally-shy seventh planet, Uranus.  Using a technique and image reference from Scott Levine at Scott’s Sky Watch, I apparently was able to capture Uranus with just my smartphone and a 10-second exposure.  Scott was then kind enough to do some additional digging to corroborate that what I identified was very likely Uranus.

As part of Scott’s investigation, he looked up the sky in Stellarium for the day and time I look my picture.  Here is the image he noted:

Scott highlighted with orange circles two stars I did not have in my original zoomed and cropped image, because I cut the image off after Mars.  First, that unnamed star is to the left and slightly higher than Uranus.  And the much brighter star to the left of Mars goes by the rad name Torcularis Septentrionalis.

Torcularis Septentrionalis.  When I was a kid, never in my most far-flung dreams did I imagine I would be blogging in 2017 about a star named Torcularis Septentrionalis.  Who knows about this star other than professional astronomers and die-hard stargazers?  A quick Internet search reveals little about it, other than a few basic facts such as its magnitude (+4.27) and that the name is Latin for, “The Northern Press,” though nobody knows why one of our ancestors named it such.  Perhaps, someday, I will write a novel about mankind’s first journey to the Torcularis Septentrionalis system, and all the incredible treasures and hidden mysteries waiting billions of years for us to find them.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to our solar system and the hunt for Uranus…

So I returned to my source image (very top above) to check if I captured these two stars.  Sure enough, it looks like I did.  Here is a left-wise re-crop where you can see the two noted stars:

Click to see the full-size image.

Again, all of these identified objects are very faint from my Samsung Galaxy S7’s meager 10-second exposure.  But I now do feel confident that I found Uranus thanks to the nearly half-dozen reference points.

This episode has stoked my interest for photographing the night sky sans telescope.  Maybe soon I will get myself a decent DSLR camera and start taking wide-field views of the great dome above.  Just think of all the other stars like Torcularis Septentrionalis out there waiting to be found!

3 thoughts on “Extreme Planet Hunters, Episode II: Uranus and Torcularis Septentrionalis

  1. Wow, so you did it! After I posted my comment, I looked some more and wondered if I got it wrong. I’m glad we were right, and you saw Uranus (happy 236th birthday!). It’s usually deep-deep sky things we wonder about (“I think that was M31, but, I dunno…”). It’s great to see a close neighbor.

    I like your optimism about Torcularis Septentrionalis. To me, that name sounds like something that comes along with an exciting throat culture.


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