A frigid but clear, still night. I got a call from my brother saying that he could make out the Milky Way arm (in Cygnus?) from his place in Portland. A sight he's never seen before from that location.
I didn't get the message until nearly midnight so I ventured out to take a look. Sure enough, the sky was not only clear, but the stars were steady. I spent a few minutes pulling out my scope, setting up the EQ platform and I had a single object in mind for what was going to become a brief session this evening: Saturn.
I turned on the fan mirror and let the scope sit out for almost an hour before I tried to pull up my favorite object.
The time spent in the 30 degree weather setting up the gear and staying up a little late on a work night all paid off when I pulled up Saturn at 300 power and it was crisp and nearly picture perfect.
Over All View
Though the image was crisp most of the time, there was a touch of the focus coming in and out. I was using the helical focuser to give me that fine focus which helped the over all view. The tracking was very roughly aligned so at high power the planed had a slight drift to it, but nothing extreme and for the most part I was able to take in th view for several minutes without repositioning.
The rings cast a thin crisp shadow against the planet giving them a distinct definition. This was particularly cool to me because I have never seen Saturn at this angle before. It was also particularly defining because the crisp shadow on one side of the rings and the faint C ring on the other side really made the contrast of the rings stand out.
The rings had enough distinction in them to see the brightness variation between the A ring and the B ring. The Cassini division was clear and distinct most of the time. It blurred in and out a bit, but was always visible.
The C ring was not distinct at all though it was there. You could see a faint dark grey line against the planet between the rings and the planet as well as a sort of fuzziness between the rings and the dark space on the sides of the planet.
Regarding the angle of the rings, I know as the next few years go by the rings will get more and more edge-on making them less and less distinct. In fact, they won't be similar to how I originaly saw Saturn in 2004 until 2011 with their most face on angle not occurring until 2016.
A southern equatorial storm band stood out very clearly though there was no color in my view tonight. The planet and rings were essentially grey but not lacking in detail.
There was a triangle of moons surrounding the planet tonight. Dione and Tethys were to the north and Rhea to the south. Off to the west was the monster moon Titan and in the distance was the Cassini-Huygens space craft (hee hee... kidding).
Enceladus was apparently off the edge of the rings to the west, but I didn't notice it. At 11.5 mag it may not have been visible tonight.
Well, thanks to my brother for the tip tonight as I was not planing on observing. I wish he was with me to enjoy the spectacular view.