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Astronomy Outreach for dummies

 

Back to the class after one of my efforts to the first unofficial Astronomy Outreach with the students. I started the class with

“ So my students I gave you a homework to do last time I came to your class.” (Eyebrows-up as expecting them to answer).  And so they did answer

“ Yeah, you told us to look  at the sky at night.”

(Previously, after an hour lecture, I told them to just appreciate the night sky, and it could  be  rather done accompanied)

Aa.. distance la moonu moonu
Moonu colour-u white.
White-u background night night-u
Night-u coloru black-u

Now the rantings started.

Hunhhahaha..
Super maama ready..
Ready.. one..e.. two.o.. three.. four.

One : “Ayyo, I spent an hour outside and didn’t find anything.”

Two: “Me also, you told us to see the stars but there are so many.”

Three: “I was looking above at the sky and didn’t find anything. I was tired and went inside.”

Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di

So, to start there is so much too see at the sky but only there should be a guide to explain where to start ‘cause at the night the stars are all over but where to find each one of them is the real thing.

On a real dark night you can find from  1500 to  2000 stars on the sky. So where to start?

You start here or here.

If I give you a world map with all the countries on them but without the markings and the country names and assuming you never saw a map in your life. Could you identify where China or India is? What about tiny Mauritius

But now if I give you a map of the world with the naming and markings then assuming you are still the same dumber who strangely has never seen a map but knows a bit of English. So now could you find United States of America?

Though with some difficulty I think you could do it.

And now if I give you the same task but give you a search option to look for a country on a digital map, say for example a google map. Then what you think could you find it more easily .

You would obviously say

“YEAAAAh”

Similarly, the night sky is the same . The night sky is like a map. You should know the bigger countries where they are placed at first and then with time you would know where tiny looking Mauritius is.

Stars in the night tend to attach themselves together to form clusters. Ah! That is why we say “A cluster of stars”. But we rather know them as constellations. So these constellations group themselves in the night sky just like big countries like Australia, India, United States etc.

And when you look at them you know where they are.

Now, you are given a Star map with the names on it, obviously you would not find France , Brazil, Saudi Arabia or countries like that but rather, Orion, Auriga, Perseus, or Gemini. And you don’t know what the hell is that, but you go outside with a star map and start looking at the stars. You would return to your room with the expression WTF?

Do you get the WTF expression?

But, the thing is it starts becoming interesting when you identify your first country. Once you get that, you have jumped on to your ride to the Universe. Believe me it’s the most exciting thing.

So, for example you find the Orion’s belt. From here you can find almost all the countries “constellations” of your star map. Try not to do it all in one go.  Go step by step.  You would have to use the technique known as Starhopping.

But my advice would be to go by identifying the borders of your identified countries so that you will be able to find your next constellation. But in this process. You will have to know the stars too.

So, you will come to a point that you will be able to identify the stars within a constellation. Don’t panic there won’t be a thousand stars in a constellation but only a few.

Take it just as major cities in a country, like India has Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkota and Chennai. So, in Taurus which is near to Orion you would find, Aldebaran, Elnath, fainter than Aldebaran  or even The Pleiades.

Now to the next step, you are a smart guy, you don’t like being like the oldies, like taking your map and going outside and fumbling with it and looking weird. (You already are weird when you’re just looking at the sky specially at night. Onlookers get the impression as if you are looking for UFO’s. I am going through this) You are the techie guy. Though old school always proves itself to be the best one.

So for you, there is a great solution too. Stellarium.  Ah! this is the best piece of software ever created for Mankind. I love it.So you for example don’t know where to look. Start here on Stellarium. Take your laptop outside and now you will be able to surf around the sky in a few minutes.

With Stellarium you just type in the search “Orion”.

And

 

On your screen behold! Orion appears

 

And now your want to starhop , want to surf around, want to learn the constellations, you can practically do everything.

Moreover, You can zooooooooooom , that is you can enlarge the stars with your mouse scroll to have a look on each star. And with the magnification you appreciate the hugeness of each Individual star.

So, I think this ends the lesson here on how to start seeing the sky. I think I should go out  now to have my eyes on  the night sky to see what’s up.

P.S: In our part of the world we always see the hunter upside down in comparison to the Northern Hemisphere. I think the greeks never visited down here.

My First Observation

Rather would like to call it My First Night SKY gazing

Forgetting my new pair of binocs was not something willed upon but New Year 2012 was approaching and as the hump-jump was everywhere, the sky was absolutely something to be forgotten about.

Do, you think the sky can be just something taken for granted and not taken care about? Obviously, for the half of my life I had never taken any interest with the sky, nor does the mass of dumbed down populace.

So why this sudden rush to understand the sky now??

The sky has been always there, neither it is so “enchanting” nor “magnetic” but our eyes are so riveted to our laptop screens or our TV sets that we have almost no time to care for what’s happening above us. Or, to just even ponder about a sky so beautiful with all its mysteries there waiting to be explored upon.

The creation of the heavens and the earth is indeed greater than the creation of mankind; yet, most of mankind knows not.

(Quran 40:57)

At 12:00 a.m midnight, around the world as it is, the festivities started with the fire works show.

In Mauritius, at the peak of the Signal Mountain this fireworks time-lapse was taken.

Unbelievingly, by one in the morning of January 2012, everything quietened up. The night was still.  No stirring up of even the leaves on trees around.

I am still thinking why did I go out that night rather than sleep?

So, my first observation did happen on 01/01/2012. How do I remember this? I think reading a review somewhere  I  came upon the advice that if you are entering this amateur astronomy hobby, ever if you are observing even for a few minutes , just record the observations. It would help you a lot.

How?

Personally, while reviewing at my log notes in my personal diary, I looked foolish of what I had logged as my first observations, but it was so interesting that an amateur as me brought in my own astronomy definitions on my first time to the already defined observable universe.

Nevertheless, the first observation remains the best and the most memorable.

Perhaps this is why I am so much in love with  Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. These three prominent stars inthe central regions of the constellation of Orion align to form the ‘belt’ of the Hunter.

And surprisingly the whole world is also. Take any beginner’s guide to the sky, they would talk only Orion,Orion, Orion. I didn’t know about Orion or its belt, but perhaps this was a sign from The Creator that this is where you should start your journey to the universe. There is so much I have learned about these three that I am baffled and there is still more to come.

The actual observation

Standing towards the west, I saw this magnificently in front of me.

I continuously looked at this portion of the sky for 2 hrs straight

What I actually wrote as observational notes?

Night gazing: The axe

Naked eye: Concentrated dots

Binocs: Small dots.

01:00 – 03:00 am

I also drew the dots  in a diary.

What makes me foolish looking now is that I called the Orion belt as the axe’s blade and the Orion Nebulae as the axe’s handle.

Hey, if the Greeks can make out Gods out of stars why can’t I make my own Axe?

The Orion Hunter

So, I have already fallen in love with the sky, what are you waiting to raise your eyes to the beautiful night sky?

Binoculars or Binoscope

Reading an article on beginners in amateur astronomy, I came to understand that my search for telescopes is not at the right time. Telescope will not allow you or put you on the night viewing passion, but rather not knowing its efficient use may also lead its place to the closet.

Usually it is advised for any requiring hobby to start on by buying this or buying that. I was rather astonished to the fact that most experienced amateur astronomers usual first time advice is to get familiar with the night sky, with the constellations and with the stars before buying anything. (As if they know, that once you get in this field then your aperture fever or drooling on the latest equipment never dies).

Therefore, I took the advice to buy a binocular first rather than buying the telescope. And in fact the next day, I went to buy my first binoculars. A 10 x 50. Explanation to what is this 10 x 50 is given in the following youtubes. I like this guy’s simple explanations.

But my astonishment found no bounds when you come to know  that binoculars are not only this size but can they be larger or bigger.

 

As to be said, the nerd notion was a bit less understood, so this post is an upgrade of nerdiness to be found in the amateur astronomy world. Browsing through the internet you find a lot but, which marks your interest may be only a selected few.

I regret the fact that there are others who call these people nerds or fools but I would rather call them enthusiasts.

You don’t even understand or need to understand the love they have for the night.

So, what do you say now, A good pair of Binoculars or Binoscope?

You want to buy a telescope?

One night it happened to me that yeah I have to buy a telescope so that I could have a look at the sky. It would be something that my children could use and see  a bit through the night sky. Perhaps this sudden  rage to buy happened by viewing  shot from the films where the there is a scene of a child viewing through a telescope and then the father calls him to sleep , I don’t remember the film though.Kinda want a help on that though.

So back to the subject I had to buy a telescope but  where to start about………(As I said previously said this blog is an absolute nerds guide to the universe. As such I googled a bit on telescope ( as I knew it is called a telescope) but again, it was a dead-end.

How can someone buy a telescope when one has not the least info on what to buy.

So, I don’t know how but it came up to me that telescope using and playing through should be a hobby for some people out there, obviously I won’t go to an astronomer to ask which telescope to buy , especially when I had spared about  Rs 1500 (about $50) to buy a toy for me and the children.

I am a heavy user of YouTube so first of all I youtubed  “Telescope”  in the Search block. And obviously  came up with Expertvillage to give me some ideas on what telescope to buy. It is somewhat there or perhaps somewhere else  that I learned about the word AMATEUR ASTRONOMY.

So I googled  “AMATEUR ASTRONOMY” and I got a few titles to choose.  And it is normal psychology to choose among the best and in my opinion I got to choose the best of all the amateur astronomy websites  in the world.  It is usual to see amateur astronomy links highlighted on the first google page but perhaps Rocket Roberts is the best of amateur astronomers that his oldy website is still appearing on the google page.

amateur astronomy search

Nevertheless to mention that google has saved a lot of people.

So google saved my day or the whole night cause I spent the whole night till 8:00 in the morning perusing  everything on Rocket Roberts website about telescopes.

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