I didn’t know what to expect when I bent over the eyepiece of a telescope set up for the viewing of the planet Saturn at a Public Star Party last night. A member of the Fox Valley Astronomical Society adjusted the lens for me and stepped back. I had seen many spectacular photos taken by the Hubble Telescope of a huge planet Saturn with colorful rings but nothing prepared me for what I saw. A tiny, perfect Saturn, majestic, stunning, sitting alone in a black velvet sky. It was as big as a firefly. I could see the tiny moon Triton. As I watched, Saturn floated as serenely as a swan to the left, evidence that the Earth is rotating at 1,040 miles per hour. Two other telescopes in the parking lot were also aimed at Saturn, which to the naked eye was a slightly dusty-looking star in the constellation Virgo. Perfection is the only word for what I saw–I was privileged to see something truly perfect. It was like having a sudden, unexpected audience with a god.
If you are interested, FVAS’s next Public Star Party is Saturday, August 6. Check their website for further info: http://www.fvastro.org. If you are not in the Fox Valley area, some nosing around on the Internet might turn up a similar group in your area.
*On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats
Planet image from http://www.cloudbait.com