Preserving Heritage With Dark Skies: How Astronomy Connects Us All

This post is part of a series of posts to commemorate International Dark Sky Week (19th-26th April 2020), dedicated to celebrating the night sky. Our lighting practices don’t only affect astronomy – they can impact other important things too. I’ll dive into some of these, and a few things you can do to make a difference. In all the progress our species has made, it’s important for us not to lose sight of where we came from. Connecting with our history can ground us and give us…Continue Reading “Preserving Heritage With Dark Skies: How Astronomy Connects Us All”

Dark Skies for Health: How Removing Artificial Lights Makes us Healthier

This post is part of a series of posts to commemorate International Dark Sky Week (19th-26th April 2020), dedicated to celebrating the night sky. Our lighting practices don’t only affect astronomy – they can impact other important things too. I’ll dive into some of these, and a few things you can do to make a difference. Light pollution can have serious negative impacts on human health. Reducing exposure to artificial lighting at night helps our bodies revert to their natural circadian rhythm, making us healthier and less…Continue Reading “Dark Skies for Health: How Removing Artificial Lights Makes us Healthier”

Protecting Wildlife with Astronomy: The Impact of Light Pollution on Animals

This post is part of a series of posts to commemorate International Dark Sky Week (19th-26th April 2020), dedicated to celebrating the night sky. Our lighting practices don’t only affect astronomy – they can impact other important things too. I’ll dive into some of these, and a few things you can do to make a difference. If an action is simple, within our reach, and can lead to the protection of the wildlife we share the planet with, we have a duty to take this…Continue Reading “Protecting Wildlife with Astronomy: The Impact of Light Pollution on Animals”

Orienting Yourself

A short refresher from the last post: we imagined the sky as a giant sphere enclosing the Earth, and call it a Celestial Sphere. We defined four reference points on this giant sphere to help us orient ourselves while looking up – the North Celestial Pole, the South Celestial Pole, the Celestial Equator and the ecliptic. For now, we’ll focus on the first three – the ecliptic only becomes useful when we’re observing planets. From a single point on Earth, we can only see half…Continue Reading “Orienting Yourself”

Reference Points in the Sky

The sky looks different, and moves differently depending on where you’re looking from. A crucial first step in learning astronomy is figuring out where you are with respect to how things are moving. Once you know this, you’ll be in a position to understand how the sky moves over days, months and years. Let’s focus on Earth for a moment. To describe any location on Earth, you need to use reference points. These reference points can be co-ordinates, physical landmarks, or directions between a starting…Continue Reading “Reference Points in the Sky”

Binocular Observing: Saturn

Named after the Roman god of wealth and agriculture, Saturn’s reputation has varied dramatically across cultures, being associated with extreme abundance and misfortune alike. Fortunately, antiquated notions of astrology have largely been dispensed with, and Saturn now enjoys its place as one of the jewels of the night sky, resplendent with its beautiful expansive ice rings. Features Saturn shines with a beautiful golden colour, and binoculars can highlight this. Its rings can’t be resolved by binoculars with a magnification less than 50x. However, Saturn’s size…Continue Reading “Binocular Observing: Saturn”

Binocular Observing: Jupiter

Aptly named after the Ancient Roman king of the gods, Jupiter dominates the other planets in stature. It is roughly 1,300 times bigger than the Earth. Its staggering size makes it a promising target for binoculars, in spite of its incredible distance from us. Jupiter’s tempestuous surface is composed almost entirely of gas under extreme pressure, agitated by the Sun, orbital motion, and the planet’s own core. Surface features Through binoculars, Jupiter is visible as a prominently large bright circle. Magnifications of 50x and higher…Continue Reading “Binocular Observing: Jupiter”

Binocular Observing: Venus

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Our closest planetary neighbour in orbital proximity and size, Venus, was thought to be Earth’s twin, until probes of its surface exposed a very different reality. Its dense, corrosive atmosphere, a hundred times thicker than our own, conceals a surface shaped by turbulent volcanic eruptions and violent impact craters.

Venus was the first planet to have its path across the sky studied – records of its motions from as early as 2000 B.C. have been found.

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What to Pack for an Observing Session

These few items go a long way in helping you make the most of your stargazing session: 1. A red head torch While you should ideally stay dark adapted to see stars, you still need to find your way around at night. A red head torch solves this problem neatly – you can see with the light from it, but it doesn’t hamper your sensitivity to the light from fainter stars and planets. In addition, being able to mount it on your head leaves your…Continue Reading “What to Pack for an Observing Session”