Saturday, 10 January 2009

2009: International Year of Astronomy

Last night while checking out the weather forecast on the Weather Network, the announcer mentioned that this year was the International Year of Astronomy. The guest astronomer talked about what neat stuff that could be seen in the night sky in Winter in the northern hemisphere, and encouraged people to go outside and look up, in the spirit of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope.

Then this morning, while listening to the news, I heard about IYA2009 again, and this time the astronomer was encouraging to take a look at Jupiter, saying that Galileo was the first to discover it had moons, with nothing but a low powered telescope.

On the way home from grocery shopping this evening Gord and I saw what we thought must have been Jupiter in the southwest horizon. We talked about taking my telescope outside and checking it out. I have a neat telescope I bought with money I saved from my part time job in Grade 9 - it is a bulbous little thing but it gets the job done for the amateur astronomy I'm interested in. By the time we were ready to head outside Jupiter had sunk below the horizon, but even with my little birding binoculars I got to see the orangy tones of Betelgeuse and the bluish hue of Rigel in the constellation of Orion. And the moon is full as well - just gorgeous with the naked eye, and nicely detailed in the sights of my binoculars. I'll get the telescope up and ready a bit earlier tomorrow night, keeping my fingers crossed for clear skies, so I can catch Jupiter before it sets.

Looking up at the stars always makes me feel connected with the bigness of the universe, just like paying attention to my breathing can give me a feeling of connectedness with the smallness of the molecules I breathe in and out. I like that.

Have you looked up, way up, lately?

Picture of Orion courtesy NASA.

6 comments:

Coll said...

Hi, Had an extraordinary purple sky this evening when it was sleeting. I love it when I feel connected to the outer world even though I'm a city girl. Last summer one of my favorite days was lying back camping in a circle of trees around the fire and watching the August meteor shower. Looking at the sky at night to me is calming and helps me to be aware of the immensity and profusion of the universe. Namaste, Coll

Theresa said...

Thank you Coll; Namaste to you as well. :)

I've seen two shooting stars this year after years of never seeing any - that has been really neat. The purple sky must have been quite the sight!

Beany said...

I love lying on my back and watching the stars. I've always wanted to own a telescope. But I guess I never made it a priority to own one.

You're right, realizing how vast the universe is makes me feel more connected and my problems and worries very insignificant.

SoapBoxTech said...

Wintertime on the farm was always the best time to stand and look up. A cold, clear winter night, standing in a white field looking up at...all that amazingness up there...

So I know what you mean about reflecting on the micro/macroverses. I have friends who like to look real close at certain things with a telescope, but I have always been most fond of looking at the whole thing in its infinity.

Its something Ive not done in a long time tho...its a lot harder now that the city has so expanded. One clear night soon tho. Thanks for another reminder.

Theresa said...

Soapbox, yes, sometimes the nightsky just sneaks up and suprizes me, say when I'm out putting something in the compost, or putting frost blankets over the garden in late fall. I look up for no reason and just can't look away - all those layers and layers of stars, all those billions of miles away in space and time.

It's getting harder to see the stars here too, with the encroachment of the city and with neighbors putting up lights on their acreages. But I can still see quite a few.

Theresa said...

Beany - it's that feeling of insignificance that I find humbling and awesome at the same time. I remember when I went to the Grand Canyon many years ago and felt a similar way: looking down meant looking back in time and it seemed my eyes would never reach the bottom!