For the first time in my life I was thankful to be woken up by my aging, ever more insistent bladder. The clock read 6am. I peaked out the window and instantly saw something other than overcast skies which have dogged me every night for days since getting "started". I popped outside and saw about five stars and the moon. Of course, within about 10 minutes I was aware of stars all around me as my eyes adjusted. Time was short. I grabbed the Nikon 10x50 Acular binoculars and the tripod. I felt like a kid in a candy store for the first time in decades. I propped up the tripod with the glasses on them and realized that my body doesn't bend in any way the tripod (which is about 5' tall fully extended) wanted me to maneuver. I grabbed a stool. Still not right. I grabbed a folding chair. Better, but still not great. I ended up just unscrewing the binoculars.
I then realized I had no idea where to really look. I have about five sky apps on my phone, but also decided to take another look at SkySafari and much to my surprise the Pro version was on sale for $27.99. I grabbed it, but it would be of no use this time as it needed to download 2GB of additional data. Wow. More to investigate later.
I picked the most obvious spot in the sky just above me. My phone says it was Vega. I believe I was looking somewhat north. It was pretty high in the sky, but not directly overhead. I then noticed two very close stars lower and left of it. Not sure what they were.
Spica (so I found out) then jumped out to my right and lower than the moon. I'm not sure why, but even though the moon surface looked better than ever I just skipped right past it. I suspect my instinct was that there'd be plenty of time later to see the moon. I wanted to see something different.
I then ended up at Ursa Major and a point of confusion on charts. My phone app said I was looking at Benetnasch, Alcor & Mizar, Alioth (with 78 Zuma) and Megrez. Pocket Sky Atlas and "Guide to the Stars" (A large round plastic circle atlas that you spin to the month/day/time) both said the first star at the end of the handle is Alkaid. So what the heck is Benetnasch? Hmm.
I kept looking around the sky. What to focus on? Back to Vega. Close to it, but lower and left where two stars very close to each other. Maybe Altair and something? Much higher up my phone said I was looking at Deneb. I then oddly bounced around this "summer" triangle (said the charts) noticing less bright stars for a surprising amount of time.
Then I decided to swing back to Ursa Major and, as I was looking at Alkaid/Benetnasch, something strange happened that I wasn't expecting. A star moved. What? Okay. Stars don't move so something moved from my right to left. It flew at an immense speed. A solid white light from the direction of Alcor straight across Alkaid and continued off to the South on a very specific path. It was gone in roughly 10 seconds. Then, moments later I noticed a second object following in nearly, but not quite the same path. Same speed, same look. I assumed perhaps planes, but I've seen planes as high as 37,000 feet in the sky and they're bigger than this. Did I just see my first satellites perhaps? Is there a way to know, and if so, which ones? This was at roughly 6:15am.
I then kept looking for more such moving targets, but that was all I found. I finished off by just taking in everything I was seeing. Frankly, it was oddly (for me) overwhelming. I realized at once how completely lost I was. I had no idea where to really look, what might be fun to find, etc. I just bounced from object to object surprised at how many I absolutely could not see with my eyes, but that appeared with the binoculars. Fascinating.
One disappointment is that no planets seemed to be out. I later saw that Mars, Jupiter, Saturn (and Pluto hiding near Saturn) should have been in my lower sky right of Vega, but I never saw them. I believe they must have been below my horizon and in low clouds. The other disappointment was that I saw nothing .... out of the ordinary. Everything I saw was essentially a white dot of varying degree in the sky. Nothing I could say was anything other than a star aside from the obvious Moon and the possible satellites/planes.
And then it was all over. Far too fast. Neighbors began to pop out (I was in my driveway looking, I'm sure, fairly disheveled). I got a number of what I expect were the first of many quizzical looks. They're just going to have to adjust to this new normal.