This is M15, one of the many globular clusters of stars hanging around the fringes of our galaxy. It's also one of the objects I got to see last night at the Oregon Observatory. This picture was taken by the Hubble, so what I saw last night through that earthbound 20-inch telescope lacked all of this detail and color. And yet, I was so thrilled to see it I almost lost my balance on the stepladder I was using to reach the eyepiece. There were a lot of Oh, wow's heard as we wandered through the back yard of the observatory, seeing the Andromeda galaxy through one telescope, and then the red supergiant star Mu Cephei through the next one.
We couldn't get a great look at Jupiter -- it was too close to the horizon and obscured by smoke, but saw Saturn quite clearly, tiny and pure white, with Titan winking off to one side, and the shadow of the rings clearly visible. It may have lacked the color and detail of the Cassini images but somehow seeing something with your own eyes, however imperfectly, is better than the best photograph.
Which, of course, is why we're all in Oregon this weekend.
Credit: NASA, ESA