The Lagoon Nebula, as photographed the morning of June 26 from the Pit ‘n Pole site in Tooele County.
Editor’s note: Portions of this have been previously published on the author’s blog.
A dazzling gem of the nighttime summer sky is the Lagoon Nebula, a gigantic star-nest relatively near our planet (as cosmic distances go). It’s bright enough that from a dark site, a person supposedly can see it with unaided eyes, toward the lower part of the southern Milky Way.
During a visit to a site that Utah astronomers call Pit ‘n Pole, in Tooele County, I was awed by the beauty of the night sky: Jupiter blazed as it sank in the west and the Milky Way stood up from the south like a streak of gray smoke. (I didn’t notice it but Saturn was in the middle of that section, too.) The Teapot, a formation of eight stars in the Sagittarius constellation, was tilted so that the filmy center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, puffed around its spout.
After midnight a couple of coyotes yapped at each other, too far away to record by iPhone.
I was there to try out my new astro-camera, which had been difficult to learn. My first attempt that night was a portrait of NGC 6946, the galaxy where Patrick Wiggins discovered his most recent supernova. I had been anxious to get a view of it ever since Wiggins noticed it on May 13. In fact, I’d planned to set up my telescope in the backyard that same night and photograph the same galaxy, as it’s one of my favorites. But we had guests, so I didn’t try, and it turned out later that NGC6946 would have been blocked by trees — and I had equipment troubles that would have prevented any picture.
This time, the host galaxy was in the northeast nearing 60 degrees…