Saturday, 1 April 2017

A is for Astronomy and All Things in the Skies

Humans have always looked up to the skies and said, "That's cool. I wonder what's up there?" Myths and stories abound in every culture to explain the stars, the wandering stars (the Greeks called them "planets") and the mysterious dance of the Sun and the Moon. (Also, what's that big splotchy thing that looks like spilt milk?)

We're a naturally curious species. We like knowing as much as we can about everything about us. That includes the universe in which we reside.

Astronomy is the study of that universe we can observe.  Some consider astronomy the oldest of the natural sciences, starting with the measurement of time.

One of the really cool things about astronomy is that there is plenty of room for front-line work carried out by citizen scientists (like me). There is so much universe out there. From ground-based observations to data analysis from the many probes and other missions we send out there, there's plenty of work for the amateur astronomer. Comets, asteroids and even red dwarf stars are often discovered by citizen scientists.

But for the casual sky-watcher, there's plenty of fun to be had looking up with the naked eye. You don't need a fancy (expensive!) telescope to stargaze. Binoculars work fine, and there is nothing wrong with Mark-1 Eyeball observation.

The constellation Orion is currently visible in our night sky from most of the planet. At the very least, become familiar with it, for it is a magnificent example of many really lovely things astronomers like to study.

It looks like this:

The bright red star at the top left is Betelgeuse, the bright blue star at the bottom right is Rigel. Orion's belt is the three stars in the middle, and his 'sword', hanging from his belt, is actually a nebula. Orion is plastered against an outer arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

I hope you have a chance to observe it before it passes out of our night sky by May. We'll cover more regarding Orion when O drifts around.

Which constellation is your favourite?

Her Grace has always loved astronomy and hopes you do too.


Clare said...

Thank you for this post. You're reignited my love of astronomy; something that fascinated me when I was at school. I'll be sure to look out for Orion's belt this month!! :D

Chris Votey said...

My Worldbuilding tutorial on my website, Map Making For Those Who Can't Draw, included making a star. One of these days I want to go into more discussion of stars, but one thing I did cover in my (other) Worldbuilding article on Gold, is that it is believed that Gold is form not within a star, but when two neutron stars collide. There is a lot to astronomy, even in Worldbuilding.


I am visiting from the Blogging A to Z challenge. We homeschool our children. Several years ago my oldest son took Astronomy for one of his science courses and really enjoyed it.