Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sky Watching 1a

We’ve had some excitement in the heavens over the last couple of days with the sun throwing off an impressive coronal mass ejection and with that lots of people are going outside tonight in hopes of catching an aurora display.

That gave me the idea to introduce one of my favorite hobbies and maybe introduce some ideas that will give everyone something else to do as they hope the coming geomagnetic storm stimulates some exciting lights.

Let’s first make a list of the things you will need.

1. Night sky free of clouds
2. Hot chocolate or other libation
3. If you want to get fancy a pair of binoculars, but really all you need are your eyes.

“We are voyagers on the Earth through space, as passengers on a ship, and many of us have never thought of any part of the vessel but the cabin where we are quartered”.. S.P. Langley

Tonight everyone is going to want to observe the northern sky as that is the direction any aurora activity would come from, and I thought it would be appropriate if we learned how to find the North Star Polaris.


The key to being able to find Polaris is the ability to recognize and spot the constellation Ursa Major some of the stars of which comprise the big dipper. The way I like to think of it is the big dipper pours out Polaris. Polaris is about 25 degrees away from the pointer star, and it just so happens you have a great astronomical compass at your disposal in your hands. A hand with all your fingers open is about 25 degrees from your thumb to your pinky finger, like you were making a hang ten sign or saying I love you in sign language.


Now if you find you’re digging this and want to find the other stars and planets around us this is a great place to start. We find the other stars by picking out prominent stars and using pointers and our hand compasses. Run out and get yourselves one of these a two sided planespherefor 10 bucks and this Nightwatch as a reference book and I daresay you could have a lifetime of viewing enjoyment. I know I can say I still haven’t found everything I’ve been looking for.

My favorite sky watching music is above.

Namaste friends go out and enjoy the sky!

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