Last night we spent time doing something which I haven't done in years: looking at the night sky through my telescope. I was originally going out to see meteors, though the Perseid meteor shower would have been more stunning closer to dawn. Instead, I ended up training the telescope on two planets shining really brightly, not far from each other, just above a tree to the southeast of our picnic table: Jupiter and Saturn.
Several times I have spotted Jupiter's four Galilean moons through the telescope, but I can't remember ever before seeing them this clearly. This morning I looked up an amazing website which let me determine which order the moons were in: Turns out, from left to right at that particular hour, we were seeing Ganymede, then Callisto, Io, and Europa, all named for mythical lovers of Jove.
I set up my tripod and camera and got a couple decently clear shots of the planet and its moons, though I know very little about astrophotography and found it really hard not to shake the camera, with all of my excitement. Here is my best effort:
Even more exciting to me (but not successfully photographed) was seeing incredibly clearly Saturn and its rings. I think that this was only the second time that I have seen those rings, and for whatever reason it really chokes me up. How amazing is it--that from this vineyard property in this outpost of southern Pennsylvania, we can see glimpses of other worlds?