My cell phone can’t do it justice with pictures, but I’m in an enchanted land right now.

There is something magical about being outside on a very pleasant summer night at 2 AM, away from any city lights, at our observatory on Bull Run Mountain. I’m well-napped and caffeinated, standing on a platform, surrounded by silver light, trees, our observatory, grass, and deep shadows. Because of this nearly-full moon, I didn’t need any flashlight to make my way between buildings, and now I’m listening to the cicadas, tree frogs and katydids, and also doing astronomy — or at least trying (with some success) to do various experiments with our equipment! And we have a cell phone signal strong enough for me to post this!

(ICYWTK, I’m imaging the very famous M13 — the great globular cluster in Hercules — as well as the also-famous Double Cluster, trying various settings on the mount and camera, more for my edification than to do any original research… I also tried using the Full Moon filtered through my T-shirt to produce “flat frames”. ICYDK, you have to subtract the signal in the flat frame from the signal in your “light frames” — the images you take of the star or galaxy or whatever — in order to get rid of noise and other distortions… It’s all complex mathematical algorithms today to produce those pretty astro photographs we live to enjoy…)

Being outside under the moon and stars on a nice summer night is something few of us get to do anymore. But it’s MAGIC. Try it some day.