Thursday, December 15, 2011

Astronomy For Dummies



As we bumble along through the world of astronomy and never getting enough sleep when the telescope is involved, I figure it's only fair that I share our follies and great successes with the world. Welcome to the first installment of Astronomy For Dummies!

I read in Star & Telescope Magazine earlier that "astronomy doesn't have to be hard," and its so true.

Unless, of course, you're talking about setting up your telescope properly in the dark.

But all the f-bombs & dropped flashlights and unbalanced telescope-moments aside, astronomy really isn't hard. You just need to study the sky and read about it and form a relationship with it. I've had an obsession with affinity for maps since before I knew how to read, so it feels really natural, and makes total sense, to read the sky the same way I read terrestrial maps. I form relationships with them.

But looking at stuff through a telescope is totally different than looking with the naked eye. Whoa.

Here's what we did last night during our 2 hours (!) up on the roof. I tried to find photos online that vaguely matched what we were able to see through Orieness the telescope.

First up was Jupiter; since it's the largest object in the night sky other than the Moon, it seemed like a good way to calibrate the telescope after polarizing it. One of the best things all night happened while Scott was trying to find Jupiter in the telescope. I'd seen it twice at the California Academy of Sciences, so I knew what to expect, but Scott hadn't seen it before, and the moment where he said "I found it! — wait, are those moons?" was one of those grin-a-mile-wide moments.

Here is approximately what we were able to see, and yes, we could see all 4 moons & the stripes.
Jupiter w/ its 4 moons


Next up—much to my excited delight—was my favorite night sky object, The Pleiades. It's a star cluster visible with the naked eye, and it lives in the constellation Taurus. It shimmers when you look up at it and it's simply beautiful. Little did I know just how awesome it would be in the telescope.

We were both surprised. There were so many stars! To read more about The Pleiades, click here. I also love how they appear in Homer's The Iliad and have been revered for so long back to ancient times.
The Pleiades



Next up? The Orion Nebula, which I affectionately refer to as "Orion's Penis" due to its location just south of the belt as well as its function as a "star nursery." This was really, really cool. We could see a slightly fuzzier, smaller version of the below image. Loved seeing how obviously "gassy" it was!
Orion Nebula




Finally, we decided to view the Moon, now slightly waning but bright as hell, using our new lens that would allow us to see much more closely. Holy mackerel this was awesome. I tried to find an image that showed the moon's detail the way we saw it last night, but I honestly had trouble because of how up close & detailed we got. I felt like I truly understood just how barren the moon is for the first time last night. Additionally, it was so bright that when I took my eye away from the telescope, I couldn't see out of that eye for about a minute each time. The Moon: badass!
The Moon!






Yes, last night was so awesome. And now I am sad because it's cloudy & about to rain.

Until next time. ... this has been Astronomy For Dummies! 



2 comments:

  1. Love it! Very surprised you can see so much there, you'll have to drive out to the woods sometime and see if it looks any different.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think I will be shocked if I ever make my, for example, Yosemite camping dreams a reality!!

    ReplyDelete

 
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