Milky Way Sets the Stage at Burton’s Sugar Farm for Brilliant Gas Giants, ISS, and Perseids

A special thank you to Brian Hancock for his effort in capturing the beauty of the Milky Way at Burton’s Sugar Farm, August 2, 2013.

Members and guests of Memphis Astronomical Society (MAS) experienced a sensational night-sky show at Burton’s Sugar Farm on Saturday, August 14, 2017. August is a special month for observing while the heart, the center, of the Milky Way appears highest in our night sky. As the earth makes its annual journey around the sun, we pass between the sun and the center of our galaxy during the summer. Late summer is the best time to view this glorious, star-studded backdrop of our night sky. Six volunteers went out with telescopes on this beautiful night. They, and about a dozen guests, were treated to more than the most spectacular angle of view of our magnificent galaxy. The opening act began with waning twilight as always appealing Jupiter and Saturn made their appearance in the night sky. Next up on the cosmic stage was the International Space Station (ISS) which made its graceful pass overhead. Finally, as if not to be outdone by brilliant galaxy, planets, and space craft, the Perseid Meteor Shower put on a fantastic show giving some observers the thrill of spotting as many as five meteors. All of this happened within two hours before the cloud curtain closed the stage.

A special thank you to Don Farage for his efforts in capturing the beauty of M16 — Eagle Nebula (left) and M20 — Trifid Nebula (right) at Burton’s Sugar Farm, August 14, 2017.

Deep gratitude to distinguished Mark Matthews and our friends at Burton’s Sugar Farm, who made it possible for one of the best observing nights of the year, and that which came with it, to be experienced by those who attended. One of the most difficult positions to be in on potentially cloudy event days is that of MAS VP Observing who must decide when to cancel the event due to weather conditions. Some might believe that two hours of observing is not enough time to have a good night of observation. However, dedicated astronomers know that quality can outweigh quantity on any given night. Although a well-crafted description of the evening maybe gives a good sense of what was missed, the only way to truly sense what we might have missed is to have been there to experience it ourselves.

Thank you, Mark Matthews, for your dedication to the mission to promote interest and education in astronomy and related sciences. Please continue to persevere.