The Moon was gorgeous, Earthshine illuminating its shaded side. Jupiter was low in the western haze, trembling in the warm air rising from my neighbor's roof, but still and always worth a look. And the yellowish star in the southwest was Saturn, always stunning.
When I was in college, and taught astronomy labs once or twice a week and ran my university observatory's public viewing sessions, I really knew the sky. Not just the names of stars and constellations, but where to find the good stuff. I could spin a telescope around and point it right at a nebula or galaxy without looking, and tell you what it was and how it got there. I liked to flatter myself that I knew my 'scope and sky like a mariner knows his ship and sea. I'm not as facile now as when I starhopped two or three nights a week thirty years ago (and had better eyesight), but it turns out I can still bumble my way around the neighborhood.
People are often stunned when they see the Moon or Saturn through a telescope for the first time. At public viewing sessions, I had more than one visitor peer into the front of the telescope to be sure I hadn't hung a little model in there. Despite millions of photos a million times brighter and sharper than any image I could show you through my 'scope, there's something uniquely thrilling about seeing it in real time with your own eye. It's authentic. If you're looking at something particularly small or obscure, there's a possibility you're the only person in the universe seeing it at that moment. Anything could happen!
Anyway, just before I closed shop for the night, I thought to run inside and grab a camera. I don't have a high-end SLR, just a little point-and-shoot digital camera, and I didn't have the time or inclination to try anything fancy. I literally held the camera up to the eyepiece to see what I could see. My results are below and, to be clear, they aren't examples of my astrophotography prowess that I'm proud of. They're bad. I shot much better pics in college on film. Still, for shoving my camera lens against the eyepiece and clicking away on the automatic setting, I was kind of pleased with the results.
Go out, take a look. Get to know your way around the neighborhood.
|The haze in this photo is real. The fog had started to come in.|
|Saturn. The image is fuzzy because I couldn't hold the camera steady for the 1/8-second exposure. It looked very crisp to the eye.|