That Old Chestnut

The last few nights have been wonderful for observing the sky, so it was no surprise that my neighbour Malcolm knocked on the door to ask if he could have a look through the telescope tonight. All he wanted to do was to see the Moon, but as Saturn was still very bright, I thought we’d have a look at that too.


Darkness fell about 8:30pm and I set up my 4 inch scope with my neighbour and his wife jumping up and down with excitement in the background. There were plenty of oooh’s and aah’s whilst looking at the glorious detail on the Moon. Craters like Theophilus, Cyrillus and Caterina were clearly evident as was the Altai scarp, the wrinkle ridges on Mare Serenitatis and a host of other details.


Turning the scope to Saturn I bumped that magnification up to X150 and settled the planet in the centre of the field. It looked beautiful – a pale yellow orb with subtle banding, the slightest hint of shadow on the rings whilst the rings themselves were gloriously revealed with the Cassini division between the A and B rings featuring well. Malcolm stepped up to the scope and took a peek. There was a gasp of surprise followed by a chuckle, exclaiming – “You’ve stuck a picture on the front of the telescope!”


He went to the front of the scope to have a look – nothing to see, no picture, no hologram no illusory magic. He scanned under the scope, nothing there before returning to the eyepiece to revel in the planet’s beauty. “I would never have thought this was a real image, it’s like being in a space craft” he gasped, clearly overwhelmed by the sight of this most radiant of planets. He had to be torn away by his wife Suzanne who also fell under the spell.


If only I had a pound for every time I’d been accused of substituting the real thing for a photo when looking at Saturn, I’d be retired by now.

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