The Planet Hunter, Episode II: Uranus and Torcularis Septentrionalis

The Planet Hunter, Episode II: Uranus and Torcularis Septentrionalis

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:

Original image from Scott’s Sky Watch

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:

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!



I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have over 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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