I spent 5 days camping in my RV with some friends of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City at our Dark Sky Site. Located about 75 miles from Kansas City, it is far enough away from the city lights to give us amateur astronomers some really dark skies. Unbelieveably, all 5 days were clear. On one of those nights, fellow ASKC member, Eric Bogatin, said that a bright Iridium statellite was going to show up high in the eastern sky. I quickly set up my camera on a tripod and took the image you see above. When the flare was starting to brighten up, another member, Gary Pittman, pointed out where it was with his laser pointer. These laser pointers are so bright, they easily show up. The other short streak of light on the left side of the image is an airplane. For more info about Iridium flares, see my blog for Aug. 2, 2009, Iridium Flare and Extreme Numbers.
One of those 5 clear nights was on the foggy side, but that night was a super night for looking at details on Jupiter. Normally it is hard to see fine detail on Jupiter because of the turbulence in the atmosphere. All that turbulent air is also magnified by the telescope, stealing fine detail in the eyepiece. But, that foggy Saturday night, the air was perfectly still. Looking at Jupiter through a 20-inch telescope on a night like that is truely incredible. There was so much color and detail it was hard to take it all in. Jupiter's moons were seen as tiny little marbles instead of the twinkly stars I'm so used to. That night, I had three 20-inch telescopes to see it with, and their owners, Mike Sterling, Scott Kranz and Mike Meyers, were more than willing to share the fantastic view. Thanks guys for sharing the scopes. These type of night come only once in a very long time. I've only seen three nights like that in all of my 30 years of observing.