I knew last night was going to be the last night I would have clear skies for a while, with a near-hurricane in the Gulf and real November weather on the way, so I rushed home yesterday from the most incomprehensible lecture I have attended in years and set up the big scope one more time.
Jupiter travels behind a giant tree in my yard by about 8:00 this time of year, and the Moon and our bellicose neighbor Mars are rising late and staying mostly in the trees, so I found myself out in the yard around 11:00 just sort of cruising the sky for something interesting. It's a bit like the cruising we did in high school, but it burns a lot less gas. The chances of getting lucky are about the same.
About the time I had determined that Andromeda and Triangulum were too directly overhead for the scope to reach, I noticed that Orion was coming into view so I decided to see if I could get a shot or two of M42, the Orion Nebula. I had already failed to get any usable pictures of several other deep sky objects, so it would be hard to imagine my surprise at the end of a five-minute exposure when this picture popped up on the little camera screen:
I know ways I can get better shots, but I will need more new toys. And there is more I can do with software in post-processing once I learn how. But for the moment I am just going to enjoy the rare, pleasant surprise of success without preparation.