Sunday, April 19, 2009


When I was a teenager I never thought of myself as being interested in astronomy. I do, however, remember appreciating the brilliance of the night sky when I was in the wilderness and it could actually be seen. Over the past few years I have become more interested in astronomy, though. I remember once about five years ago I was camping with the singles ward near Smith and Moorehouse near the Uintah Mountains in Utah. One of my friends knew some of the sights to look for in the night sky and he showed them to me. The one that I most remember was a star cluster that he called the Three Sisters. It could be seen with a simple pair of binoculars.

Now lets skip ahead a few years. The end of my junior year of school was approaching and we had to select the senior design teams that we were going to be a part of. A friend of mine had proposed a project to build a telescope. The project was unique because the goal was to design a very large telescope that could be carried into remote places--place that were much better for stargazing. So I took my interest in the night sky and a little knowledge of physics and mechanics and joined this team. The telescope that resulted from months of struggle turned out to be really cool. I've posted pictures of it on this blog in the past, but if you haven't seen those, here is another picture:I only got a few chances to look through it, but from what I saw it turned out to work pretty good. The day before the picture above I set it up on my front steps and looked at the full moon. You can sure see lots more lunar features through a telescope. It's been almost a year since we finished the project. I'm not sure where the telescope went. Chances are it's in my teammates garage. He's the one that proposed the project and this was the fourth telescope he'd built. It makes sense that he would have it.

Now we live in Washington and the area I live in has less city lights so you can see the stars a little better (when it's not overcast). So I decided to buy some binoculars and this little field guide so I could get to know my way around the sky. I've had the field guide now for a couple of days and so far it is very interesting. Here's something I didn't know: constellations aren't just stellar formations, they are viewed as regions of space. Like a state is divided into counties, the sky is mapped using constellations. The stars that lie within these boundaries are given names that relate them to the constellation that contains them along with a greek letter. For instance, the star that is the upper corner of the cup of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is called Ursae Majoris Alpha. So I've learned something already.

I'm looking forward to doing some star gazing from the wilderness here. And recently another thought came to me, what must the stars look like from the sea? I've seen them from the mountain tops where they blanketed the sky. What would it look like if the only light source around was the light on your boat? The light from the stars would have no competition to reach your eyes. In three weeks I'll get to spend some time on the ocean, but I'm afraid the lights and glitz from the opulent cruise ship will block out the stars. At any rate, I'll find a spot on the ship to see some stars.


At 9:30 AM, Blogger Miriam said...

Surely the cruise line would be willing to turn off all it's lights so you could star gaze :) You'll have to share your knowledge from our balconies some night!!

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Packrat said...

You taught something to me. I didn't know about the Greek letter after the star name. I'm not an astronomy fan, but I have always been intimidated/awed by how old the light is by the time it reaches us. How cool is it be able to see the past? (I read that somewhere. I'm not smart enough to link old light with past "life". LOL)

Cool telescope. One advantage to living out in the middle of "no where" is that we can see the stars even when the street lights are on.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Oooooh! Good Idea.


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