Asteroids - DOC by cynthiab49

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									Asteroids

There is a lot of exciting stuff going on in the stars above us that make
astronomy so much fun. The truth is the universe is a constantly
changing, moving, some would say “living” thing because you just never
know what you are going to see on any given night of stargazing.But of
the many celestial phenomenons, there is probably none as exciting as
that time you see your first asteroid on the move in the heavens.To call
asteroids the “rock stars” of astronomy is simultaneously a bad joke but
an accurate depiction of how astronomy fans view them.Unlike suns,
planets and moons, asteroids are on the move, ever changing and, if they
appear in the night sky, exciting and dynamic.Like rock stars, asteroids
have been given their fair share of urban myth and lore.Many have
attributed the extinction of the dinosaurs to the impact of a huge
asteroid on the earth.This theory has some credibility and, if it is
true, it evokes some pretty startling images and foreboding fears in the
current reining species on earth, the human race.The fact that asteroids
are fast moving space debris only makes their movement and activity more
interesting and exciting.Unlike a moon, planet or star, the odds that an
asteroid could hit the earth are entirely reasonable and in fact, there
are many documented cases of small asteroids making it through our
atmosphere and leaving some pretty impressive craters in the earth’s
surface.Popular culture has happily embraced the idea of an asteroid
impact.The idea has spawned many a science fiction story adding the idea
that alien life forms may ride asteroids to our world and start a “war of
the worlds” situation. But by far, the most talked about concept that
has captured the imagination and the fears of science fiction fans and
the general public is of another asteroid hitting the earth that could
wipe out life as allegedly happened to the dinosaurs. In fact, the movie
“Armageddon” was based on this idea and the concept that somehow mankind
could avert that catastrophe with technology.But probably the best way to
calm our fears and replace science fiction with science is with
understanding and knowledge. The truth is, there has been a lot of study
of asteroid activity and the serious scientific community has gained
significant knowledge of these amazing celestial bodies. A number of
probes to asteroids have been conducted which have given us a wealth of
information about their composition and how we might predict their
behavior. We now know that the majority of asteroids we get to witness
come from an asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter. It is
from this community of asteroids that many of the notable asteroids
emerged. Scientists have gained significant knowledge about the
composition of asteroids and separated them into classes including class
S which comes of the part of the belt that is closest to Mars, classes C,
D and V which are classified by composition and a class called “Centaurs”
whose flight patterns take them closer to Jupiter and Uranus.
Some of the probes NASA has conducted on near flying asteroids have
performed some pretty amazing studies of these eccentric celestial
bodies. In 1994 the Galileo probe got within 1000 miles of the asteroid
Ida and discovered that Ida actually had its own moon.
Other probes have fired impactors into asteroids and even landed on an
asteroid to produce some amazing scientific data for us. There is much
to learn about asteroids in our love of astronomy and that knowledge only
makes our enjoyment of seeing them in the cosmos even more exciting.
Beyond the Naked Eye

It’s hard to say when in our lives each of us become aware of this thing
called “astronomy”. But it is safe to say that at some point on our
lives, each and every one of us has that moment when we are suddenly
stunned when we come face to face with the enormity of the universe that
we see in the night sky. For many of us who are city dwellers, we don’t
really notice that sky up there on a routine basis. The lights of the
city do a good job of disguising the amazing display that is above all of
our heads all of the time.So it might be that once a year vacation to a
camping spot or a trip to a relative’s house out in the country that we
find ourselves outside when the spender of the night sky suddenly decides
to put on it’s spectacular show.If you have had that kind of moment when
you were literally struck breathless by the spender the night sky can
show to us, you can probably remember that exact moment when you could
say little else but “wow” at what you saw.That “Wow” moment is what
astrology is all about.For some, that wow moment becomes a passion that
leads to a career studying the stars.For a lucky few, that wow moment
because an all consuming obsession that leads to them traveling to the
stars in the space shuttle or on one of our early space missions.But for
most of us astrology may become a pastime or a regular hobby.But we carry
that wow moment with us for the rest of our lives and begin looking for
ways to look deeper and learn more about the spectacular universe we see
in the millions of stars above us each night.To get started in learning
how to observe the stars much better, there are some basic things we
might need to look deeper, beyond just what we can see with the naked eye
and begin to study the stars as well as enjoy them.The first thing you
need isn’t equipment at all but literature.A good star map will show you
the major constellations, the location of the key stars we use to
navigate the sky and the planets that will appear larger than stars. And
if you add to that map some well done introductory materials into the
hobby of astronomy, you are well on your way.The next thing we naturally
want to get is a good telescope. You may have seen a hobbyist who is
well along in their study setting up those really cool looking telescopes
on a hill somewhere. That excites the amateur astronomer in you because
that must be the logical next step in the growth of your hobby. But how
to buy a good telescope can be downright confusing and
intimidating.Before you go to that big expense, it might be a better next
step from the naked eye to invest in a good set of binoculars.There are
even binoculars that are suited for star gazing that will do just as good
a job at giving you that extra vision you want to see just a little
better the wonders of the universe.A well designed set of binoculars also
gives you much more mobility and ability to keep your “enhanced vision”
at your fingertips when that amazing view just presents itself to
you.None of this precludes you from moving forward with your plans to put
together an awesome telescope system.Just be sure you get quality advice
and training on how to configure your telescope to meet your needs.Using
these guidelines, you will enjoy hours of enjoyment stargazing at the
phenomenal sights in the night sky that are beyond the naked eye.

Dude, You’re Getting a Telescope!

You might remember the Dell computer commercials in which a youth reports
this exciting news to his friends that they are about to get their new
computer by telling them, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” It was a cute
series but it reflects the excitement young people get about anything
new, particularly if it’s a new machine.So when its time to finally get
your children that very first telescope, you want to make sure it’s just
the right thing. There are a number of reasons you should put some
serious thought into just what this beginner telescope should look
like.Perhaps this will be your children’s first experience with a real
telescope.They may have a healthy and thriving love of astronomy from
your family trips to the country to watch a meteor shower or just to gaze
at the stars.And you may have piqued their interest showing them how to
enhance the experience with binoculars or even letting them play with
your telescope.But this is a big moment. You want them to “bond” with
this first telescope the way you did and catch the excitement of using
the power of a telescope to do things with their love of astronomy that
they could never do before.The reasons for taking care with your choice
are many including…A telescope is a big step into the lifelong hobby of
astronomy.If they get the wrong thing, frustration could make them lose
interest both in the machine and in the field of study.Kids have a short
attention span.You want this beginner telescope to take them from where
they are to the next level while giving them those gratifying moments
discovering new things in the stars every time they use it. It has to be
a hardy piece of equipment. Kids don’t always know how to treat delicate
equipment.So the starter telescope should have some good “training
wheels” on it.It has to be their teacher even when they don’t know they
are in school.A good beginner telescope, accompanied by some stimulating
documentation that is written just for kids will stimulate their
excitement and use it to teach them to work hard to reach new heights in
their quest for knowledge about the stars.A lot about how you go about
getting this first telescope will depend on your own expertise in
astronomy.If it is your passion and you have developed a pretty
sophisticated knowledge about telescopes over the years, you not only are
well equipped to make this choice but you will be there to guide them as
they begin to use it.But if you are just encouraging them in a wonderful
hobby that you yourself have not been involved with in depth, first of
all, congratulations.You are giving them a wonderful gift of not only
knowledge but the love of astronomy and the natural wonder of nature.But
you also need some help.So here are some quick guidelines.Find the
astronomy geeks.They are easy to find in hobby shops, astronomy clubs and
societies at the local college.They will help you enthusiastically.Look
at the telescope you are considering through their eyes.It should not be
too complex.Don’t get something that will intimidate them.Don’t buy a
toy.Your kids will know the difference.Make sure it can grow and be
expanded as their knowledge expands.If you put some wise consideration
into just the right starter telescope, your kids will be as excited they
have ever been for a gift.Don’t be surprised if you hear one of them
squeal, “Dude, you got a telescope!”

Moon Fever

Of all of the celestial bodies that capture our attention and fascination
as astronomers, none has a greater influence on life on planet Earth than
it’s own satellite, the moon. When you think about it, we regard the
moon with such powerful significance that unlike the moons of other
planets which we give names, we only refer to our one and only orbiting
orb as THE moon.It is not a moon.To us, it is the one and only moon.The
moon works its way into our way of thinking, our feelings about romance,
our poetry and literature and even how we feel about our day in day out
lives in many cases. It is not only primitive societies that ascribe mood
swings, changes in social conduct and changes in weather to the moon.Even
today, a full moon can have a powerful effect on these forces which we
acknowledge even if we cannot explain them scientifically.The most
obvious physical phenomenon that is directly affected by the gravity of
the moon are the tides of the ocean.The tides are an integral part of how
maritime life is regulated and the comings and goings of the fishing
world in coastal communities.But not very many people know that at
certain times of the year when the orbits of the earth bring the sun and
moon into right alignment, there can even be tidal effect on inland
bodies of water and even on the solid earth.Eons ago, when the moon’s
orbit was closer to the Earth, it was the effect of the moon that caused
massive changes in the topography of the land and on continental drift as
well.This reflects the powerful effect the moon has had on both human
history and on global geographical history as well.You may sometimes
wonder where the moon came from.Was it a planet that traveled too close
to Earth and was captured in our orbit? Actually, the prevailing theory
of modern science is that the moon was the result of a large scale
collision with the still developing Earth early in its development which
caused this large “chuck” to spin off into an orbiting body. This
explains the similarity in composition as has been confirmed by many of
the moon exploratory space missions that were conducted by NASA.But this
background also highlights another important influence the moon has had
on Earth’s development that is seldom recognized and that is the
stabilization of Earth’s orbital pattern.Most know that Earth is not
round but more of an egg shaped orb.To be blunt, the Earth would wobble.
Without the moon’s stabilizing influence, this shape would shift
dramatically so the tilt of the axis, that is the polar caps would shift
dramatically with each seasonal rotation producing climacteric, changes
much more violent and drastic than we are used to.It is possible that
life as we know it could not have developed here had the moon not been
there to “keep the Earth in line” and continue to stabilize the orbital
position of the Earth so our climate could remain stable and mild.A third
significant influence of the moon comes from that origin as coming from a
collision which “ripped” the body of the moon from the developing core of
the Earth.Because of this disruption in how the core of our planet
developed, the metals that are usually intact in the core of the planet
are actually scattered up and down the geography of the earth in diverse
ways.Usually the metals of the planet are all concentrated deep in the
core.But because of the collision which took the moon out to orbit,
metals that have been crucial to the development of our industrial and
technological cultures are readily available and easy for use to mine.
This again, is something we can thank the presence of that lovely moon in
the sky for.

Pictures in the Sky

One of the earliest activities we engaged in when we first got into
astronomy is the same one we like to show our children just as soon as
their excitement about the night sky begins to surface.That is the fun of
finding constellations.But finding constellations and using them to
navigate the sky is a discipline that goes back virtually to the dawn of
man.In fact, we have cave pictures to show that the more primitive of
human societies could “see pictures” in the sky and ascribe to them
significance.Constellations also have been important in culture and
navigation long before we had sophisticated systems of navigation.Early
explorers, particularly by sea, relied exclusively on the night sky to
help them find their way to their destination.In fact, when “Columbus
sailed the ocean blue in 1492” and “discovered” America, he could not
have done it without astronomy and the help of navigation of the cosmos,
much of which is made possible because of the important
constellations.When learning to find the great constellations in the sky,
we use the “find one, you found them all” system.That is because the
easiest constellation to find will guide us to the rest of them.That
constellation is The Big Dipper.Look to the northern sky on a clear night
and widen your field of vision from just focusing on one star and it will
pretty much jump out at you.In will look like a big kitchen pot or ladle,
right side up in the fall, upside down in the spring.When you have the
big dipper under control, you can pretty easily find the North Star.This
is the star that those ancient sailors depended on the most to find their
way to land.Start with the far edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper, the
side that is opposite the handle.There are two stars that make up that
side of the bowl.So start at the bottom of the pot and mentally draw a
line to the top star of the bowl.These two stars are “pointing” to the
North Star.Just keep following that line, curving a bit with the sky and
the bright star that you come to is the North Star.You can impress your
friends or family if you know the scientific name for this star is
Polaris.The North Star can then take you to The Little Dipper.The key
here is that Polaris is the tip of the handle of The Little Dipper and
the bowl hangs down from the handle like it was hanging up in the
kitchen.Be patient with this one as the stars that make up The Little
Dipper are dimmer than The Big Dipper.But it pretty cool once you find
it.These are the obvious starting places but from The Little Dipper you
can find the constellation known as “The Swan” or Cygnus.Just use the
same system you used to find The North Star but continue drawing that
line that started in those pointer stars in the bowl of The Big Dipper.Go
about half as far as you went to find Polaris and you are there.You will
see a trapezoid of stars about as big as The Big Dipper.This trapezoid
forms the tail of The Swan.That line that we are drawing from the pointer
stars is our roadmap to another well known constellation which is
Cassiopeia.If you use that line and imagine you are directly under the
two pointer stars, you will se a big “W” just off to the left of the
line.This is the constellation Cassiopeia, the wife of the king of Egypt,
Cepheus,in Greek mythology.There are so many more wonderful
constellations to find and a good star map can continue your quest.Like
Cassiopeia, all of the constellations have wonderful stories and myths
related to Greek culture.It is just as fun to find the star clusters
themselves as it is to enjoy the rich culture related to that
constellation.For all of the signs of the zodiac, for example, there is a
related constellation in the sky.So whether you are serious about
astrology or not, its fun to find the constellation that relates to your
“sign” (or that of your children) and be able to see how the ancients
related to these pictures in the sky.

Space, The Final Frontier
While it was just a TV show, that little speech at the beginning of the
original Star Trek show really did do a good job of capturing our
feelings about space.It is those feelings that drive our love of
astronomy and our desire to learn more and more about it
The thing that is most exciting about studying the universe is also the
most frustrating and that is that no matter how expert we get, we are
always just getting started.But if it’s any consolation, some of the most
advanced minds in science and from history always felt that way about
space.Even the greats such as Copernicus and Einstein looked up into
space and felt like they were just a spec in the presence of such
infinity.Of course space is not infinite. It has to be finite which
means somehow there must be an end to it.But if there is, nobody on this
tiny planet has figured out where it is.The only thing that has brought
us to “the end of the universe” is our limited ability to see any deeper
into space.But conquering the final frontier of space means more than
just seeing more stars and planets and building the biggest telescope we
can.There are some mind blowing concepts about how space works that we
have ahead of us to conquer.The big bang and the expanding universe alone
was enough to set your mind to spinning.But then we have the coming of
Einstein and the theory of relativity to set the entire idea on its
ear.All of a sudden space is not just three dimensions but the dimension
of time becomes exportable and the twisting and maybe even travel through
time seems almost possible.The frontier of space is as much a journey of
the mind as it is of distance.When Steven Hawking showed us the mysteries
of black holes, all of a sudden, time and space could collapse and be
twisted and changed in those intergalactic pressure cookers. If not for
the wonders of radio astronomy, these ideas would remain just ideas but
slowly science is catching up with theory.But the brilliance of
mathematicians and genius minds like Hawking and Einstein continue to
stretch our concepts of space.Now we have the string theory that could
revolutionize everything we know about space, time and how the universe
relates to itself.We can’t just say, no, we have discovered enough.It’s
the final frontier.The Starship Enterprise would not stop exploring so
neither can we.Because there is a hurdle still ahead that has a name but
no real answer to it yet.It’s called the Unified Field Theory and those
that know tell us that when the Einsteins and Hawkings of our day crack
that theory, every other theory will fall into place.These exciting
concepts seem some tools to put the enormity of space in context.That may
also be the value of science fiction.Not only are science fiction writers
often the visionaries of what comes to be in the future but they give us
the idea that space is knowable, that despite how big it is and how small
we are, we can conquer this frontier like we have conquered others before
us.For mankind, that is often enough.If we can get the vision that we can
conquer something, even if it is something so massive, so impossibly
huge, it seems that we are capable of anything.And the love of astronomy,
maybe unlike any other force on earth, has brought together mankind
toward that common goal of conquering the universe.The quest to establish
an international space station and to cooperate on spreading our reach
off of this planet seems to find commonality between nations that
otherwise cannot get along on the surface of the earth.That alone may be
a reason that we must continue to support astronomy locally and the space
program nationally.It is something that seems to bring peace rather than
war and make us a better people.But more than that it is as though this
is what we were created to do.To reach out to the stars may be our
destiny.If so then our love of astronomy is more than a hobby, it’s a
calling.

The Basics of Buying a Telescope

There is a moment in the life of any aspiring astronomer that it is time
to buy that first telescope. It’s exciting to think about setting up your
own viewing station whether that is on the deck of your home or having a
powerful but mobile telescope set up to take to the remove countryside to
really get a good shot at some breath taking star gazing.
The last thing we would want to do is to take away any of the “fun” of
your hobby of astronomy because the joy of what we do as star gazers is a
big part of the appeal.But unlike many other hobbies, ours is a passion
of science, of learning and of discovery. And don’t kid yourself, even a
hobbyist with a limited telescopic set up can see some amazing things in
the stars.So let’s be sure you invest in a solid piece of equipment that
you can continue to grow with as your knowledge and ability as an
astronomer grows. But how do we do that? Meet the Geeks.Now we use the
term “telescope geeks” lovingly because any of us who are devoted to our
love of astronomy eventually become telescope geeks.And these are the
type of people who will know exactly how to evaluate your needs in terms
of where you are right now and where you want to go as your hobby grows
with you.So if you have not yet associated with a local astronomy club,
now is the time to do it.Start rubbing elbows with people who live and
breathe telescopes.Their input is a hundred times more reliable than what
a sales brochure or that salesman might have to say because the
“telescope geeks” have been where you are, made the mistakes and are
eager to help you avoid those same mistakes.Size Matters In the world of
telescopes, the sales people see, to try to baffle us with all the bells
and whistles of their hottest selling model.One of the big check points
that is often pushed is the amplification level of the telescope
lens.While that is a factor that is worth noting, when it comes to a
telescope lens, the old phrase “size matters” is a good guideline.Just
remember that your telescope lens works best when it takes in the most
light it can from the object you are viewing. So the wider the diameter
of the lens, the better a view you are going to get.So don’t fall for the
amplification level only.Carefully evaluate the lens size so you have the
right fit for what you want to do.It Has to Stand on Its Own Feet.If you
are going to set up a permanent telescope station, then you can bolt the
unit down so it is well supported.But many of us have to take our
telescopes out into the country for optimum use. So the stand has to be
strong and flexible so we can set up the telescope on uneven turf but
still feel secure that this important and expensive piece of equipment is
going to stand on its own without fear of it falling during our
observation time.We already mentioned strong and flexible as evaluation
guides for the telescope stand but add in ease of use as well.You have to
be able to set your telescope up and break it down quickly and easily
when you are on a remote viewing.You may even find yourself setting up or
taking down your telescope in the dark or by lantern or flashlight if you
are taking advantage of the great star displays in the late night sky
that make this hobby so exciting.These are the basics of what to look for
in your new telescope.Finally, make sure the telescope can be enhanced
and expanded without having to throw the first unit away and buy
something completely new.You want your telescope to grow as your
knowledge and skills grow.If your first telescope meets all of these
requirements, you are off on the right foot on a long and enjoyable
career as an amateur astronomer.

The Night Sky

No matter how far along you are in your sophistication as an amateur
astronomer, there is always one fundamental moment that we all go back
to.That is that very first moment that we went out where you could really
see the cosmos well and you took in the night sky. For city dwellers,
this is a revelation as profound as if we discovered aliens living among
us.Most of us have no idea the vast panorama of lights that dot a clear
night sky when there are no city lights to interfere with the view.Sure
we all love the enhanced experience of studying the sky using binoculars
and various sizes and powers of telescopes.But I bet you can remember as
a child that very first time you saw the fully displayed clear night sky
with all the amazing constellations, meters and comets moving about and
an exposure of dots of light far to numerous to ever count.The best way
to recapture the wonder of that moment is to go out in the country with a
child of your own or one who has never had this experience and be there
at that moment when they gaze up and say that very powerful word that is
the only one that can summarize the feelings they are having viewing that
magnificent sky.That word is – “Wow”.Probably the most phenomenal fact
about what that child is looking at that is also the thing that is most
difficult for them to grasp is the sheer enormity of what is above them
and what it represents.The very fact that almost certainly, virtually
every dot up there in the sky is another star or celestial body that is
vastly larger that Earth itself, not by twice or ten times but by factors
of hundreds and thousands, can be a mind blowing idea to kids.Children
have enough trouble imagining the size of earth itself, much less
something on such a grand scope as outer space.But when it comes to
astronomy, we do better when we fall into deeper and deeper levels of awe
at what we see up there in the night sky.Some amazing facts about what
the children are looking at can add to the goose bumps they are already
having as they gaze eyes skyward.Facts like… Our sun is part of a huge
galaxy called the Milky Way that consists of one hundred billion stars
just like it or larger.Show them that one hundred billion is
100,000,000,000 and you will se some jaws drop for sure.
The milky was is just one of tens of billions of galaxies each of which
has billions of stars in them as well.In fact, the Milky Way is one of
the small galaxies.If you wanted to drive across the Milky Way, it would
take you 100,000 years.But you can’t get there driving the speed
limit.You have to drive five trillion, eight hundred million miles per
year to get all the way across that fast.Scientists calculate that the
Milky Way is 14 billion years old.These little fun facts should get a
pretty spirited discussion going about the origins of the universe and
about the possibility of space travel or if there are life on other
planets.You can challenge the kids to calculate that if every star in the
Milky Way supported nine planets and if only one of them was habitable
like earth is, what are the odds that life would exist on one of them? I
think you will see some genuine excitement when they try to run those
numbers.Such discussion can be fun, exciting, and full of questions.Don’t
be too hasty to shut down their imaginations as this is the birth of a
lifelong love of astronomy that they are experiencing. And if you were
there that first moment when they saw that night sky, you will re-
experience your own great moment when you was a child.And it might set
off a whole new excitement about astronomy in you all over again.

What if They Let YOU Run the Hubble?

It is probably the dream of any amateur astronomer to be able to be the
boss of one of the great multi million dollar telescopes even if it was
just for one hour or for a few shots.Sure, we can have a lot of fun with
our binoculars.And as we improve our personal equipment set, we get
better and better at pinpointing what we want to see in the sky.
But there is only so far we can go within the constraints of a family
budget in building the perfect telescopic operation.Probably the next
level then is to work together with others in your astronomy club.By
pooling our resources, we can make more progress both in acquiring much
more sophisticated equipment and in synchronizing our telescopic
operations.All of this is good and its fun to tweak it and play with it
always finding improvements.But when we are sitting back and dreaming,
it’s those big institutional size telescopes that really grab our
interest.Maybe you have had a chance to visit one at Kitt Peak, Arizona,
Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Palomar Mountain, California or Mt. Locke, Texas to
name just a few and as you walked around jaw dropped to your shoes, you
thought, maybe if I could just run it for an hour, how awesome would that
be? The good news is that while these huge observatories are not going to
let you come in and turn the gears of the mightiest telescopes yourself,
many of them will perform specific observations for you and allow you to
“see through their eyes” via the internet for that short observation.
This is a powerful option for an amateur astronomer and one you want to
prepare for carefully. Here is what you do…Begin compiling a list of the
great telescopes of the world, their locations and how to contact
them.Google will help you with finding lists of these observatories to
contact by pointing you to specific directory sites like
http://astro.nineplanets.org/bigeyes.html You can start by submitting
your request to a specific observatory.Now here is where you have to do
your homework.If you have a specific celestial event you wish to observe,
there will be particular telescopes around the globe that will be in the
best position to get those shots for you.So study up and find just the
right telescope and when the perfect moment for that observation would
occur.Get out ahead of this homework as you need to submit your request
in plenty of time for it to go through approval and for them to get back
to you and to interact with you to nail down what you are going to have
them look at.There are two ways you can direct the operators of the
telescopes.You can give them specific coordinates to focus on and a
specific time frame to perform the observation.The other way is to give
them a star, a planet or a particular star system to observe and let them
figure out the coordinates. That might be easier because you know what
you want to see.Now you sit back and wait for the email that the
observation is done.You will not be able to watch them do the observation
dynamically.That would be nice but it just isn’t possible yet.These are
telescopes, not web cams.But they will post the pictures from your
observation on a particular web location and email the results to you for
study.It’s pretty cool, free and customized to what you requested.And you
can brag to your friends as you make color copies of your shots that you
had Kitt Peak do these up for you personally.   And you would not be
lying.

Astronomy Binoculars – A Great Alternative

It seems from the moment you begin to take your love of astronomy
seriously, the thing that is on your mind is what kind of telescope will
you get.And there is no question, investing in a good telescope can
really enhance your enjoyment of your new passion in astronomy.But don’t
be too hasty to keep up with the big wigs in the astronomy clubs that
have advanced telescopes.There is another alternative that can give you
most of the advantages of a telescope and some extra flexibility and
reduced cost to boot.That alternative is a good pair of astronomy
binoculars.Mostly we think of binoculars as the thing you use to see the
football game when you have to sit in the cheap seats.But if you do some
homework and had a good grasp on what your stargazing objectives are, the
advantages of astronomy binoculars over an entry level telescope can be
pretty convincing.As a rule, they are cheaper.So you can get a lot of
good stargazing at much less of an investment.You can always spend more
money later but for now, this may be just the solution for you.There are
not so many accessories.To own and operate a telescope takes a lot of
orientation to how to set up and use the device.Beyond that, tuning it
for optimum view and diagnosing it when you have problems can sometimes
make the telescope more of the passion than stargazing itself.It is much
easier to use.If you have not bought a telescope yet, you may have seen
telescope owners going through a laborious set up and break down
discipline for each use.This is time they are not looking at the stars.
The binocular users are happily stargazing as this goes on.Binoculars are
lightweight and portable.Unless you have the luxury to set up and operate
an observatory from your deck, you are probably going to travel to
perform your viewings.Binoculars go with you much easier and they are
more lightweight to carry to the country and use while you are there than
a cumbersome telescope set up kit So give the binocular option some
consideration. To make the most effective choice, however, here are a
few facts about astronomy binoculars that will help you evaluate which
ones are best for you…Binoculars have two lens sets, one at the end of
the eyepiece and a set right next to your eyes.The ones closest to the
eye are called the ocular lenses which magnify the image (make it
bigger). The ones closest to the sky are called the objective lenses and
the size of these lenses will determine how much sky you can see at
once.So anytime you are evaluating binoculars, there are two numbers
associated with the set.So if the binoculars have a rating of 15-40, that
means that the ocular lenses magnify 15 times and the later number is a
relative number to how much of the sky you can see.The higher the second
number, the more you can see.The explanation is simple.The bigger the
lens, the more light it lets in. But be aware that the bigger the second
number, the larger, heavier and more cumbersome the binoculars will
be.You will have to balance these two numbers with both your budget and
what you want the binoculars to do for you.If you decide to go with a
lower power binoculars, you could become frustrated with what you can see
and you may have to take your eyes away from the view to get your
orientation and consult the star map more often because your range of
vision is so limited.There will also be a temptation to buy a set of
binoculars that have zoom functions and other features that will allow
you to use it for other purposes such as hunting, whale watching or
seeing the football game from the cheap seats.While this is good economy,
those functions will get in the way when you are using the binoculars for
astronomy.So if you are considering this purchase as your alternative to
buying a telescope, our advice is buy binoculars made just for astronomy
and don’t take them to the ball game.

Bonding with the Universe.

As parents, we often worry about what our children are getting excited
about.We hope we can guide them to “bond” with healthy things like a love
of learning, of family and of healthy social activities.But we also worry
they will bond with the wrong people like internet stalkers or the wrong
crowd at school.Wouldn’t it be great if we could harness that tremendous
energy and desire to latch onto something and bond with it and help our
children “bond” with the universe through a love of astronomy? Kids love
to get excited about what you are excited about.So there lots of ways you
can “spring” the fun of astronomy on them that will jump start them on a
long and happy exploration of the hobby of astronomy.Here are a few to
get your imagination going.Work it into an evening in the backyard.If you
know the night sky will be particularly exciting the night of a big
family barbecue, plan to have some blankets out there.Then as everybody
else is playing Frisbee, just lay out a blanket, lay flat on your back
and start staring up into the sky with a binoculars.Like the old prank of
staring at a far away spot to get people’s interest, your kids will see
what you are doing and what to know what is going on. As you let them
take a peek, their curiosity will take off like a wild fire and they are
hooked.A surprise visit to the country.Sometimes it is hard to see the
vast display of stars from within the city.So if you announce that you
are going to show them a surprise one night and have them pile into the
car, their curiosity will be going wild as you leave the city.When you
find that quiet park, field or lake side spot, all you have to do is
point up and say “just look” and the magnificence of the night sky will
do the rest.
A special Christmas gift.You can buy your children an affordable and
durable beginner’s telescope along with some easy star maps written just
for kids.Imagine when they open this exciting gift and want to know how
to use it.Don’t be surprised if you are setting up the new telescope in
the snow to show them the great things they will see in the cosmos with
the gift that Santa wanted them to have.The gift of astronomy.Unleash the
power of a meteor shower on them.You can keep your eye on the events that
are predicted for the sky watchers in your area.When the next big meteor
shower is about to explode over your area, watch the weather for a clear
night and get your kids excited about what they are about to see.As the
lights begin to go off over head and you create fun and interesting
narration to this dramatic display, the children will be addicts for life
for the great experiences that can be had as students of astronomy.Plan a
surprise event in with something you are already doing.For example, on
vacation, you can plan your route on a cross country trip to bring you
within visiting distance of one of the great multimillion dollar
telescopes in this country.By contacting them ahead of time, you can be
sure they are conducting a tour that coincides with your visit.Just
imagine if they can look up at a telescope that is bigger than their
house and maybe look through the eyepiece as some amazing cosmic sight,
it will be the hit of the vacation.Astronomy is a great activity to
introduce on a family camping trip.As the family sits around the fire
after a fun night of camping, all you have to do is just look up and go
“Wow, look at that!” When those little heads look up, they will look back
down changed children, children in love with the stars.Astronomy is a
healthy passion for your kids and one they can grow with their entire
lives.And there is probably no better gift you can give them than the
love of the stars, of science and of nature that is all wrapped up
together when your kids bond with the universe through astronomy.

How to Look Up

The beauty of astronomy is that anybody can do it.From the tiniest baby
to the most advanced astrophysicist, there is something for anyone who
wants to enjoy astronomy. In fact, it is a science that is so accessible
that virtually anybody can do it virtually anywhere they are.All they
have to know how to do is to look up.It really is amazing when you think
about it that just by looking up on any given night, you could see
virtually hundreds of thousands of stars, star systems, planets, moons,
asteroids, comets and maybe a even an occasional space shuttle might
wander by.It is even more breathtaking when you realize that the sky you
are looking up at is for all intents and purposes the exact same sky that
our ancestors hundreds and thousands of years ago enjoyed when they just
looked up.There is something timeless about the cosmos.The fact that the
planets and the moon and the stars beyond them have been there for ages
does something to our sense of our place in the universe.In fact, many of
the stars we “see” with our naked eye are actually light that came from
that star hundreds of thousands of years ago.That light is just now
reaching the earth.So in a very real way, looking up is like time
travel.Everybody knows how to look up.Children first discover the amazing
light show on display for free every clear night by just looking up.You
can probably remember that very first time you noticed that explosion of
stars above you when you were a child.Now it is time to foster that same
love of astronomy in your own children.You have to teach them how to look
up.
While anyone can look up and fall in love with the stars at any time, the
fun of astronomy is learning how to become more and more skilled and
equipped in star gazing that you see and understand more and more each
time you look up.Here are some steps you can take to make the moments you
can devote to your hobby of astronomy much more enjoyable.Get out of
town.The furtherest you can get from the lights of the city, the more you
will see in the night sky.Know what you are looking at.It is great fun to
start learning the constellations, how to navigate the night sky and find
the planets and the famous stars.There are web sites and books galore to
guide you.Get some history. Learning the background to the great
discoveries in astronomy will make your moments star gazing more
meaningful.It is one of the oldest sciences on earth so find out the
greats of history who have looked at these stars before you.Get a
geek.Astronomy clubs are lively places full of knowledgeable amateurs who
love to share their knowledge with you. For the price of a coke and
snacks, they will go star gazing with you and overwhelm you with trivia
and great knowledge.Know when to look.Not only knowing the weather will
make sure your star gazing is rewarding but if you learn when the big
meteor showers and other big astronomy events will happen will make the
excitement of astronomy come alive for you.And when all is said and done,
get equipped.Your quest for newer and better telescopes will be a
lifelong one.Let yourself get addicted to astronomy and the experience
will enrich every aspect of life.It will be an addiction you never want
to break.

Moon Gazing

For many of us, our very first experience of learning about the celestial
bodies begins when we saw our first full moon in the sky.It is truly a
magnificent view even to the naked eye.If the night is clear, you can see
amazing detail of the lunar surface just star gazing on in your back
yard.Naturally, as you grow in your love of astronomy, you will find many
celestial bodies fascinating.But the moon may always be our first love
because is the one far away space object that has the unique distinction
of flying close to the earth and upon which man has walked.Your study of
the moon, like anything else, can go from the simple to the very
complex.To gaze at the moon with the naked eye, making yourself familiar
with the lunar map will help you pick out the seas, craters and other
geographic phenomenon that others have already mapped to make your study
more enjoyable. Moon maps can be had from any astronomy shop or online
and they are well worth the investment.The best time to view the moon,
obviously, is at night when there are few clouds and the weather is
accommodating for a long and lasting study.The first quarter yields the
greatest detail of study.And don’t be fooled but the blotting out of part
of the moon when it is not in full moon stage.The phenomenon known as
“earthshine” gives you the ability to see the darkened part of the moon
with some detail as well, even if the moon is only at quarter or half
display.To kick it up a notch, a good pair of binoculars can do wonders
for the detail you will see on the lunar surface.For best results, get a
good wide field in the binocular settings so you can take in the lunar
landscape in all its beauty.And because it is almost impossible to hold
the binoculars still for the length of time you will want to gaze at this
magnificent body in space, you may want to add to your equipment arsenal
a good tripod that you can affix the binoculars to so you can study the
moon in comfort and with a stable viewing platform.Of course, to take
your moon worship to the ultimate, stepping your equipment up to a good
starter telescope will give you the most stunning detail of the lunar
surface.With each of these upgrades your knowledge and the depth and
scope of what you will be able to see will improve geometrically.For many
amateur astronomers, we sometimes cannot get enough of what we can see on
this our closest space object.To take it to a natural next level, you may
want to take advantage of partnerships with other astronomers or by
visiting one of the truly great telescopes that have been set up by
professionals who have invested in better techniques for eliminating
atmospheric interference to see the moon even better.The internet can
give you access to the Hubble and many of the huge telescopes that are
pointed at the moon all the time.Further, many astronomy clubs are
working on ways to combine multiple telescopes, carefully synchronized
with computers for the best view of the lunar landscape.Becoming part of
the society of devoted amateur astronomers will give you access to these
organized efforts to reach new levels in our ability to study the Earth’s
moon.And it will give you peers and friends who share your passion for
astronomy and who can share their experience and areas of expertise as
you seek to find where you might look next in the huge night sky, at the
moon and beyond it in your quest for knowledge about the seemingly
endless universe above us.

Radio Astronomy

For most of us, the idea of astronomy is something we directly connect to
“stargazing”, telescopes and seeing magnificent displays in the
heavens.And to be sure, that is the exciting area of astronomy that
accounts for it’s huge popularity.So to the uninitiated, the idea of
“radio astronomy” seems strange.There are two reasons for that.First is
that humans are far more visual than audio oriented.And the second is
that radio astronomy doesn’t really involve “listening” to the cosmos
except to the extent that scientists who use this sophisticated form of
“stargazing” do not rely on visual study to conduct their work.To
appreciate what is really exciting about radio astronomy, first we have
to shift how we view astronomy.That is because to professional
astronomers, studying the universe is more about frequencies than it is
about visual documentation of phenomenon.This takes us back to Physics
101.Light, obviously, is the physical phenomenon that empowers our
ability to use our visual confirmation system, e.g. our eyes to
appreciate something, in this case the stars.So when we look up at the
heavens, we can see the light emitting from a star or reflecting from a
planet or moon.In many cases, if we see a far away star, we are actually
seeing it hundreds or thousands of years ago because that is how long it
takes for that light to cross the universe and be visible in our sky.That
alone is a pretty mind blowing idea Now light itself is a pretty strange
substance.But to our astronomy scientists, light is just another energy
that exists in a certain frequency. Now, we tend to think of frequencies
when we talk about sound waves.In scientific terms light, energy and
sound are just a few forms of the same thing, frequencies of energy that
are emulating from a source.Now we get to why radio astronomy is so
necessary. The range of frequency that light occupies in the big
spectrum of frequencies is really pretty small.To put that more bluntly,
we can only “see” a tiny part of the universe that is actually there.Now
when you look up in the night sky and it is so overwhelming, when you
then that we are seeing just a tiny amount of what is actually going on
up there, again, our minds can get pretty overwhelmed.Radio astronomy
uses sophisticated sensor equipment to study ALL of the frequencies of
energy coming to us from the cosmos.In that way, these scientists can
“see” everything that is going on out there and so get a precise idea of
how the stars look, behave now and will behave in the future.For some of
us who have heard about radio astronomy, we think of it in terms of
“listening” for signs of life in the universe.And yes, SETI, or “the
Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence” is a part of radio astronomy,
albeit a tiny part.But of much greater importance is how radio astronomy
has empowered serious astronomers (that is those who get paid to do it)
to study stars many light years away, to study black holes which we could
never see with our telescopes and to gather research and data about the
whole of the universe that otherwise would be impossible to know and
understand.This is important work that is constantly ongoing in the world
of astronomy.It is worth keeping up with and learning more about as we
have barely scratched the surface in our brief discussion today.But
understanding how important radio astronomy is will only deepen and make
more meaningful your love and grasp of this big field of knowledge known
as astronomy.

Telescopes 101

Buying the right telescope to take your love of astronomy to the next
level is a big next step in the development of your passion for the
stars.In many ways, it is a big step from someone who is just fooling
around with astronomy to a serious student of the science. But you and I
both know that there is still another big step after buying a telescope
before you really know how to use it.So it is critically important that
you get just the right telescope for where you are and what your star
gazing preferences are.To start with, let’s discuss the three major kinds
of telescopes and then lay down some “Telescope 101” concepts to increase
your chances that you will buy the right thing.The three primary types of
telescopes that the amateur astronomer might buy are the Refractor, the
Reflector and the Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.The first two are named
for the kind of lens that is used.It is pretty easy to see that the lens
is the heart of the telescope so the kind that you will use will
determine the success of your use of that telescope.
The refractor lens is the simplest because it uses a convex lens to focus
the light on the eyepiece.So the lens bends outwards for this purpose.The
refractor telescope’s strength is in viewing planets.The reflector’s
strength is in seeing more distant objects and the lens is concave or
bends in.It uses mirrors to focus the image that you eventually see.The
final type, the Schmidt Cassegrain telescope is the most complex and
accomplishes the goals of both but it uses an involved system of mirrors
to capture the image you want to see.So to select just the right kind of
telescope, your objectives in using the telescope are important.To really
understand the strengths and weaknesses not only of the lenses and
telescope design but also in how the telescope performs in various star
gazing situations, it is best to do some homework up front and get
exposure to the different kinds.So before you make your first purchase…
Above all, establish a relationship with a reputable telescope shop that
employs people who know their stuff. If you buy your telescope at a Wal-
Mart or department store, the odds you will get the right thing are
remote.Pick the brains of the experts.If you are not already active in an
astronomy society or club, the sales people at the telescope store will
be able to guide you to the active societies in your area.Once you have
connections with people who have bought telescopes, you can get advice
about what works and what to avoid that is more valid than anything you
will get from a web article or a salesperson at Wal-Mart.
Try before you buy.This is another advantage of going on some field trips
with the astronomy club.You can set aside some quality hours with people
who know telescopes and have their rigs set up to examine their
equipment,learn the key technical aspects, and try them out before you
sink money in your own set up.There are other considerations to factor
into your final purchase decision.How mobile must your telescope be? The
tripod or other accessory decisions will change significantly with a
telescope that will live on your deck versus one that you plan to take to
many remote locations.Along those lines, how difficult is the set up and
break down? How complex is the telescope and will you have trouble with
maintenance? Network to get the answers to these and other questions. If
you do your homework like this, you will find just the right telescope
for this next big step in the evolution of your passion for astronomy.

								
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