A brief report on what was happening in Madison County Missouri last night. It was one of those nights that just seemed… perfect. This was our first group viewing session since forming the Eastern Ozarks Astronomy Society which kinda makes it seem official and made it seem something of an occasion.
My friend Russ Middleton got some great photos and one of our new members, Kaleesha, and her girls had a look at a nice variety of nebulae: Orion, Pac Man, Eskimo and M1, the Crab. We also took a look at Jupiter and ended the group viewing with Bode’s Nebulae, M81 and M82. Lots of great astronomy talk about the Cosmic Microwave Background, the Bing Bang, and how astronomers (and science in general) come to know things through the scientific method.
After everyone left I warmed up inside for a couple hours and went back out after the moon set. I logged 13 galaxies, a planetary nebula and a globular cluster, M68. Five of those were Messiers bringing my total on that list to 103, just 7 more to go! Messier 104, the Sombrero, was really impressive and with averted vision I was able to make out the dust lane. M68, was really beautiful with many of its stars nicely resolved. I also added nine more to my list of viewed Herschels, bringing me up to 241 out of 400.
The last object viewed from 4:20-5am was Saturn. This was, by far, the best view of the planet I’ve ever had in my life and honestly, I think I could have cried but it would have ruined the view so I didn’t let it happen. It was so otherworldly, and yet, so familiar an image. Viewing Saturn is always special but when it is so perfectly clear, it can be much more.
I saw at least 5 of the moons as well as the Cassini Division in the rings, a first for me. Also saw clouds/color bands, another first for me. Sometimes language fails me.
I can think of no better way to spend a night than this.