Tonight we did a variation on “dinner and a movie” and did “dinner and the stars” instead.
The MCC Observatory (built 2001) and Muskegon Astronomical Society Observatory are housed at the Wastewater Treatment Facility on the outskirts of Muskegon. This is one place where there is not a lot of ambient light, so it is pretty good for viewing the stars (and planets). Tonight was not the best night for viewing as it was a bit cloudy/hazy, but we did get to see Jupiter and four of its moons.
Even though the images from NASA and the Hubble telescope are much better, there is something about seeing a planet in real time that is just amazing. I mean, I know the planets are there, but I never really stop to really contemplate their existence and the huge distance that they are from us.
So then I spent some time looking around the Internet for images like what we had seen, but many of the images are much more impressive than what we could see in Muskegon tonight. The image below is probably the closest to what we saw through the hazy sky. This photo was taken by Shweta Kuvalekar in the Canary Islands.
If the sky was better, we might have been able to see something more like this photo, taken by a 16-year old Iranian student, Shahriar Davoodian (Tehran, 2005).
I did find this really amazing photo of Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars taken by Phil Zollner in Howell, NJ in December of 2006 that kind of puts things into perspective.