Saturday, June 30, 2007

The 'star' was there, but the others stole the show

Miss K come over tonight for a spur-of-the-moment dinner. The rule was I had to make dinner with whatever I had...I couldn't go to the store to buy anything. So we had a yummie dinner of chicken, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and spinach and a so sweet cantelope. Mint pear-ginger sun tea and white wine rounded out the meal with a smile. Then we were off to our event of the night - a visit to our town's riparian preserve for 'astronomy night'.

Now, the whole purpose of this evening was to 'stretch out of our box' and do something different. Also, as you know by now, tonight was the rising of the Full Strawberry Moon...and I so wanted to see its ascent into the night sky. We got there as the sun was slipping behind the mountain range and dusk was bading good-bye to the day. A family of ducks took to the pond; greeting each other as they waded towards the marsh grasses. Behind us was an actual telscopic dome; a little round building with a dome that moves 360 degrees for an optimal view of the celestial sky. There were two telescopes set up; one big one inside, and a small one outside. They were both pointed to the low western horizon. The naked eye saw a bright object - Venus - at this point, but when one stepped up onto the step stool and peered inside the black eyepiece of the telescope, this is what was viewed...

that's right........ SATURN!!!



I was stunned! I, literally, couldn't believe my eyes!! It was white..a solid white...and the rings around it were white, too! But it was distinct - a planet surrounded by rings. Venus was there, too. A brilliant, white half-moon shape. But it was Saturn that left me at a loss for words. When we first were looking at these two planets, only Venus was visible to the naked eye. But as dusk gave way to night, a very small, very faint pinpoint of light began to glow just up and oh, so slightly to the right of Venus. (about the '1:00' position). Yes, yes, it was true... I was looking at Venus and Saturn. I must have looked 6 different times through the telescope to see Saturn again and again... it was stunning. We've all read about Saturn, seen the pictures, etc. But to actually see the rings!!??!!


The Full Strawberry Moon announced her arrival with a warm, orange-rust glow beforehand. Soon, she peeked her cheeks above the horizon and rose in full body for all of us to 'ohh' and 'ahh' over. There were more people there than I had expected and it seemed that everyone was whipping out their cell phone camera to take a picture of this beauty. I brought my SRL camera, along with my telephoto lens, and my digital camera...but true confession time... I have no clue how to use my fancy-dancy camera!! I tried one shot, but I'll have to get the film developed to see what I managed to capture. (Yes, this is a FILM camera ... remember those??). This shot is from my digital and I got a decent on on my cell as well.

But wait! There's more!

We also were treated to a view of Jupiter... that's right... JUPITER and I got to see the 4 Galileo moons hanging below this massive orb. They were beautiful! And I could see a red-orange stripe running around the planet. Wow!! After some calculations and moving of the dome of the building, we were treated to a view of M-57 - a stellar nebula - a star that exploded leaving particles and debris hanging in space. It looked like a gray smoke ring hanging there in the dark. So very cool!

The two scottish gentlemen hosting this evening's viewing were full of grand information that really impressed me....did you know that the moon moves away from the Earth 4.5 centimeters every year?? There are 3 laser reflectors on the moon (left from 'moon' missions) which scientists shoot lasers to in order to figure out distance, etc. The famed 'beetleguise' star is found as the upper left shoulder in the constellation 'Orion' (one of my favorite).

This night was so incredible! I am so glad that I did something that I've wanted to do for such a long time, but just never did. Miss M said she would like to go, so next week we'll return. The night sky shows are free and held every Friday and Saturday nights... yeah!! Tomorrow night, just after the sun has set, look above the horizon to the west and you'll see a bright object. That's Venus. Wait for the rest of the daylight to slip away, and look just above and to the right of Venus. You'll see a tiny little white dot. That's Saturn. You'll be looking at Saturn.

Did you catch that?? You'll be looking at Saturn!


1 comment:

Chickenbells said...

Wow...what an amazing night! I can't believe you saw Saturn either, how cool is that? When we were at The Dells Sat. night, I kept looking at all the bright "stars" and wondering if they were planets! I am so excited that you tried out something new...stretched out of the box and had it work out so nicely...yay for stretching up to the sky and grabbing Saturn!