Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My new interest in one of the oldest sciences--astronomy

My post today will be about astronomy. It is one of the oldest sciences, dating back to some of the earliest world civilizations. This natural science is a study of celestial objects such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and nebulae, as well as of the physics, chemistry and evolution that help to explain their existence (modified from Wikipedia). I am not sure when my interest in astronomy really took hold, but it has developed and grown during the past year, and reached the point where I decided I wanted to buy a telescope so that I could begin to gaze at the sky. Lucky me--my husband decided to make that purchase my Christmas present. So I am now the happy owner of a Skywatcher BK 705 AZ3 Telescope. It is a great telescope for beginners; you can gain more information about it by watching this excellent video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0YK9968ubY. This telescope costs about three hundred dollars, and allows camera attachment so that photos can be taken if desired. In order to get good camera focus though, you will need to purchase an adapter and an attachment ring, which I have now done. I am waiting for clear skies again in order to take some photos of the moon. Because this telescope has already provided excellent viewing of the full moon this past week; you can see the craters and the lunar landscape. Very cool! We have also managed to view Jupiter with two of its moons (most likely Ganymedes and Europa), but not with great resolution since this planet is quite far from earth and the moons were really just pricks of light; when the two planets are at their closest point, the distance to Jupiter is 365,000,000 miles. The distance between the moon and earth is 225,623 miles at the moon’s closest approach. My husband, who studied physics before moving into biology, has provided me with the mathematical formula to calculate the angular resolution needed to see the moon. It stands to reason that since the moon is closer to the earth than Jupiter, the resolution is better for the moon than for Jupiter. I will eventually take some photos of both and post them here, so you will see what I mean. I would need a much more powerful telescope to get high-resolution views of Jupiter, and it would cost a small fortune.

Interestingly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, there is suddenly a plethora of programs and news articles about astronomy, the planets and moons, space travel, the current space missions—all of which I find so interesting and timely. Here are some links to some great programs and sites if you are interested in finding out more about the ‘wonders of the universe’:



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