Late last night I set up the scope (Spooner 10" F5.5 Dobsonian) for observing early this morning. Surprisingly, I had no problem jumping out of bed at four in the morning when the alarm clock rang, as opposed to Saturday when the alarm sounded for close to three hours--not good. Thankfully, I had no pressing commitments early Saturday morning. Saturn was placed near the zenith and Jupiter relatively high in the sky. At 225x, Saturn was stunningly crisp accepting magnifications of 400 and 560x. (17 and 12.4mm Plossl combined with a 5x Powermate. I also utilized a 2x barlow with a 7mm Ortho at 397x, which at times seemed to give me greater contrast, but less eye-relief.) The image softened slightly at 560x and I did most my observing during an hour's time at 400x. (By the way, did I mention how nice high magnification is with an equatorial platform? Or tracking in general.) My mental notes are as follows: Saturn: A sight for sore eyes. I am pleased to see this planet return to the night sky and look forward to the remainder of its apparition. Tom Polakis noted a dark polar hood earlier this month, as Saturn's equatorial plane is considerable skewed favoring the southern hemisphere greatly. I confirmed this and found something even more interesting. Two thin white bands in the temperate region. Never seen this before. Although the C-ring was obviously apparent--the same for Cassini's division--observing either the Encke minimum or Encke division was difficult. Jupiter: The GRS rotated into view becoming plainly visible within the hour. Although I couldn't find any white ovals in the southern polar region, I did notice two very small white features near the separation of the north polar region and temperate zone. (I believe the temperate region is the white zone separating the north equatorial band from the north polar region. I searched the ALPO website for a diagram and description, but found nothing surprisingly.) The north equatorial band has considerable mottling, however the SEB appears fainter than last apparition and distinctly halved. Even the GRS is less saturated and more prominent at the core. Meanwhile, I was treated to the reappearance of Io from behind the limb of Jupiter. I was engaged to notice the moon's color and brightness change substantially from third contact to complete reappearance. When I first caught glimpse of the moon coming out of occultation, Io appeared red/orange then brightened to its typical blazing off-white manner. I should point out, the color was not red/orange as one may imagine from face value of the term. But in comparison to the end result, the difference was noticeable. I am curious to eye a similar event, as well as an eclipse of Callisto or Ganymede should one occur this apparition. With Ganymade far from the planet and the atmosphere stable, now was the time to observe the moon's subtle albedo shades ... Barely anything! As a matter of fact, I don't ever recall having difficulty finding surface detail at magnifications higher than 400x under good seeing. What's the deal? This past month I've talked about cleaning my mirror, and well, I am overdue. I think missing the Encke division and surface detail in Ganymade is either the result of being four months from opposition or light scatter from dust on the mirror. Aside for the object, I first noticed a glow surrounding the planet much greater than I've found in past sessions minus the secondary's spider. This is what is leading me to believe how important clean optics are for observing the planets--or other bright objects--with great contrast. I'm going to test my theory throughout the week and hopefully have my mirror cleaned by the weekend using Collodion. I recommend everyone take the chance to begin observing these planets; it's never too early to start--no pun intended. -FRANK --- This message is from the AZ-Observing mailing list. If you wish to be removed from this list, send E-mail to: AZ-Observing-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, with the subject: unsubscribe. The list's archive is at: //www.freelists.org/archives/az-observing This is a discussion list. Please send personal inquiries directly to the message author. In other words, do not use "reply" for personal messages. Thanks.