I couldn’t sleep. Not surprisingly, insomnia occurs more frequently as I age. Sometimes, an external force interferes with my snoozing, but I refuse to point fingers.
Laying in bed, staring at the vaulted ceiling in my bedroom, I wished I could wave a hand and temporarily retract the roof. Then I’d be mostly above the treeline and able to setup the telescope for more comfortable viewing.
Sighing, I slipped on my clothes at 3:30 a.m. and retreated downstairs to the vaulted great room, grabbed the telescope I left mounted to the tripod there and took it outside. I quickly realigned it roughly on Polaris and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I surveyed the northern sky, quickly found Cassiopeia and Perseus, but the light pollution from the Lansing Correctional Facility and the tall trees in my northern neighbor’s yard didn’t help find Comet Hartley 2. I think a field trip to Perry Lake may be in order for this weekend.
Turning to the southeast, I quickly spied Orion directly over my chimney. I aimed the telescope at Orion’s belt and may have seen a monochromatic glimpse of the Orion Nebula in his sword. Both Orion’s belt and sword contain many nebulae, but I need a darker sky to view them properly. I survey Rigel (beta Orion – brightest star in Orion (left foot) and sixth brightest in the night sky); Betelgeuse (alpha Orion – 2nd brightest star in Orion (right shoulder) and 12th brightest in the night sky); and, Bellatrix (aka ‘the Amazon star’ (left shoulder).
If you draw a line through Orion’s belt, it points to two of the brightest stars in the sky: Sirius (aka ‘the Dog star’ – the brightest star bar none and only 8.6 light years away) and Aldebaran (alpha Taurus and the 13th brightest star).
I turned the telescope to the west, where I found Jupiter peaking through the branches of one of my pine trees. Yep, it was still there and still had moons, although one of the four I observed earlier was hidden behind Jupiter.
I forgot my sweater so after about thirty minutes I brought the telescope back in and should probably retreat back to my quiet dark bedroom. Nah … my alarm goes off in two minutes (it’s now 4:58 a.m.)