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.

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About heavenswithlamps

I am an educator by day and a casual Star gazer by night. I read a lot, surf a lot, cycle at times, like trekking, learning swimming, and philosophize at times. Life = Be Cooool!

Posted on March 11, 2012, in How the Love Story Started, Learning the basics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I think it’s awesome that you’re educating folks about the night sky and I commend your efforts – good for you 🙂

    I’ve been showing my 5 year old Venus and Jupiter – he’s been having a blast too 🙂

    (And yes, Stellarium is a very cool program)

  2. Thanks, for the encouragement and kind words.

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