Star gazing

The summer of 2014 will go down as the summer of star gazing in our house. Not that we won’t continue on with it, but because this was the beginning. When we went to our first star party I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be a great experience.

G wanted a new hobby and he settled on astronomy, dragging me along to our first star party on the summer solstice in June. It was a great time, many local astronomers set up their scopes, found cool objects, and all I had to do was look. I saw Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, the ISS fly by, M11, and M13 (the last two are an open star cluster and a globular cluster respectively). My interest was definitely peaked, and not long after G got a telescope. Soon after that, he also got some binoculars, because you can see a LOT with just a good pair.

Now’s where I admit that G does most of the work in this hobby. He sets up the telescope and usually finds planets and such and then I look at the coolness. But my goal this summer was to learn some of the constellations, which I’ve done. Last Saturday was clear and warm, a final weekend of summer. We went out to the star party at L.L.”Stub” Stewart State Park and saw an incredible amount of stars along with the Milky Way. It was amazing. And I was finally able to see all of Hercules, a constellation I have been a bit obsessed with this summer.

I have really enjoyed this for a few reasons. One is that, the way we do it, it is a low tech endeavor. Last Saturday we just took binoculars with us to the star party along with a red flashlight and a star chart. It was more than enough to see double stars and some globular clusters. It also forces us to learn the sky. We don’t use all the fancy apps, but have been working on learning things ourselves.

Even better, we get away from screens, out of the city a bit to get away from light pollution, and just look at what is around us. We are even discussing vacation ideas to go to really dark places to be able to see the Milky Way better and even more with the naked eye.

And finally, we are meeting a new group of people in our city. One that has nothing to do with the web or internets. It is pulling us out of our usual world, into a new one, which is something I needed quite a bit. While I love the web, this community gets a bit insular at times, so getting out of it is good for me.

G has taken some great photos through the telescope with our little point and shoot Canon. You can see the super moon from July (taken through a much larger telescope than we have at a public star party) and the sun from just this past week. And if you have the chance to be somewhere with low light pollution, I recommend you take a look up, it’s incredible.