Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Sky at Night

This is a good time of the year to be an amateur astronomer. And you don't need a fancy set of telescope, mounts, eyepieces and the like to do observing. A good pair of binoculars or even the Mark 1 eyeball will serve you well this time of year. Westerning is Saturn. Above at midnight and later is Jupiter. And in the early morning sky is Venus, at the brightest I've seen in years. I'm sure calls about UFO's will be plaguing police departments these days.

Go to Heavens Above and see when the ISS is overhead. If you're lucky, you'll catch it as the Sun changes angle across the solar panels and you'll see it "flare" or change color. No telescope or binoculars needed, in fact, I'd discourage their use. Six humans, all alone in the night. Be sure to wave hello.

Have binoculars? Find an online or paper starmap. Cast your eyes towards Scorpius, Saggitarius. Globular clusters galore, neublae, the galactic center! How many civilizations are hidden in that direction? Pull down Olaf Stapledon off the shelf and page through that classic and gaze again.

Late at night there's a big Moon on the rise. Gaze at it with a naked eye or binoculars. Look at those features. Twelve humans walked there, why haven't we been back since? There's a whole lot of universe next door...

Take down your Dyson, your Sagan, your Clarke, your Eisley, your Thomas, your Raymo and leave through their pages under the stars. Ponder the wonders of the universe, the occasional tragedy of those who observe. Pause, and gaze upwards.

Yes, it is a good time of the year to be an amateur astronomer.

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