Fog can be magic. Like last night when the last quarter moon rose through the trees wearing a crown of foggy beams. The sight lasted only a few minutes until the moon rose higher and the mist moved on.
There are so many unexpected sights possible when you spend an hour or two under the stars. Auroras, meteors, the sounds of crickets mingled with the moaning calls of distant wolves. Even a few fireflies lingered last night.
Despite some haze I checked out the planet Neptune in my pair of 8×40 binoculars. It was a dim “star” right where it was supposed to be. The nova in Delphinus still hangs in there at magnitude 6.1, right at the naked eye limit. A recent study based on the rate of decline in the nova’s brightness places the star at a whopping 13,000 light years from Earth. That’s farther than most of the stars we see on a clear night.
The northern hemisphere sky has no particularly bright comets visible at the moment. Famous (infamous?) Comet L4 PANSTARRS was a small, faint haze in my 15-inch telescope. Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon continues to leisurely cruise across the high northern sky moving from Cepheus into Draco. It’s also a faint fuzzball but still shows a nice tail.
Earth is crossing the comet’s orbital plane this week so we see the comet and its debris cloud edge-on (in profile), giving Lemmon a remarkably long tail. The photo shows the true length; in the 15-inch scope only a fraction of the tail is visible, about 1 degree.
Step out the next time the stars are out and expect the unexpected.