Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Astronomy Without A Telescope – More Than Meets The Eye

Whatever hectic pressures may be at play in your life, you can always look forward to one quiet moment each week to contemplate the night sky in peace. I refer, of course, to when you have to take out the garbage – or as the Americans would have it – the trash.

Bin night observing receives less attention than perhaps it should in the astronomical literature. The chance to check the night sky once a week and at about the same hour gives you a chance to experience the difference between solar and sidereal time since the same stars now rise about 28 minutes earlier they did last week. And of course, you can quickly check the ecliptic for planets and for the Moon’s phase if it’s up.

Rarely, there may also be opportunities for educational outreach. A neighbor, aware of my astronomical tendencies, once asked me whatever happened to the Milky Way, which she recalled seeing as a child. I didn’t consider this a dumb question, since I remember seeing it as a kid too – it really is a ghost of its former self.

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