We’ve been camping with our Cub Scout Pack this week and we took along our odd assortment of telescopes and binoculars to do some stargazing while we’re away from the light pollution of the metropolitan area.
We are amateur astronomers. And by that I mean, we take our telescope out once a month or so–more when the cool stuff is happening–and say “Ooh!” I can find Venus when she appears in the evening sky (I rarely see her in the morning. It’s not polite to visit a lady that early in the day.) I can distinguish between planet and star. And I always give a salute to Master Orion as he marches across the winter sky.
The great thing about astronomy is that it is an easy hobby to take up. While expensive telescopes are nice, you can get inexpensive telescopes or even binoculars that show you a great deal. And if you put in the effort, you can sometimes find a good buys on nice equipment. We got a great deal on a regularly $400 telescope for $65 via Craigslist. It’s in excellent condition, and it has a computer tracking thingie so that when little people (and mamas) bump it, it’s easy to find what you were looking at. This is a beautiful thing. But you don’t need any equipment at all. All you really need to do is look up. Go ahead, try it. See? Look at all that stuff up there. Now to find out what it it is you’re looking at.
These are free resources we use for our stargazing. I love that geeks are so generous with their knowledge and skill. Thanks, geeks!
Stellarium is an open source program that shows the night sky in any location, by gps coordinate or city. One of my favorite things about this program constellation feature. You can view constellations from various cultures, including Greek, Egyptian, various Native American tribe and Chinese.
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There are also apps for phones to help you figure out just what is that thing you’re looking at. I use Google’s Sky Maps. There are probably some good iThings for iThing users, but I’m not one. Sorry. Stellarium has now has apps for iphone and android. I’ll probably buy the Stellarium app when I get a new phone. It’s free for iPhone.
Are you a stargazer? What are your favorite astronomy resources?