One good thing about living in Big Rapids is the lack of excess light pollution. I live near the hospital, right in the city (well, ok, the town). Still, on a clear night (which there are far too few of in Michigan) I can see between 7 and 9 stars visible in the Great Square of Pegasus from my back yard (magnitude 5.5 or so). I can see the Andromeda galaxy on nearly all cloudless nights. Compare that to when I lived in southern California - 90% clear nights, but I could see the moon and a couple bright planets.
Some of my viewing highlights growing up included:
- Seeing craters on the moon through a telescope for the first time. The detail at the lunar terminator took my breath away.
- Seeing the rings of Saturn through that 8-inch reflector for the first time
- Seeing the Galilean moons of Jupiter with a pair of binoculars (I didn’t even think that this was possible)
- Seeing the aurora borealis for the first (and actually many) times
- Witnessing the great fireball of 1972 (some friends and I were playing baseball and watched the fireball run from south to north in the western sky for what seemed like forever).
- Experiencing the solar eclipse of 1979. I was allowed out of classes to project the sun’s image using that 8-inch reflector so that all the classes could view the spectacle. It was not a total eclipse at our town (Plummer), but I remember the light dimming dramatically and the snow on the ground (it was in February) turning an eerie shade of blue.
The year 2017 provided some excellent views in Michigan as well. I saw the aurora borealis for the first time in quite a while. These were a quite a bit more muted that the shows I saw in Minnesota. Of course, I lived much further north back then. An there was also the eclipse, of course. The image to the upper left was taken on campus using just my cell phone.
Of course, I aspire to do more than just binoculars viewing one day. Fortunately, Ferris has a telescope on campus. The Rawlinson Observatory has a 6-inch refactor, which is capable of producing really nice lunar and planetary views. I, however, still long for a scope of my own. After much deliberation (and drooling) have decide that I would like have a 7-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. I think that this rig would offer the perfect balance of performance and portability for viewing from either my backyard or remote locations. I just need to find a way to scrape up about $2,500… What can I say, I have expensive tastes. Perhaps I will invest in a DIC microscope first.