April 13, 2012

Starry Starry Night

Ever heard of a Dark Sky Park? As the name implies, these are parks (there's only a couple in the whole world) where you can look at the stars without being hindered by any form of light pollution. Well, we live near one, and the other day we thought it might be a good idea to finally go to one of its events. And I must say it was great!

Now I live out in the sticks so it gets pretty dark as well where I am, but we do have a bit of light pollution. Where we were in the park, the guide said the darkness could measure up to 23.something if there was no moon. That's pretty dark, for the scale only goes up to 25, which is so pitch dark that you truly can't see anyone standing next to you. We did have a bit of a moon, but not enough to spoil things for us amateurs, though professional stargazers would probably have found it way too light! It was great because one does look up at the stars at night but it's hard to start recognising stuff. The only one that's really easy is the plough, as part of the Great Bear constellation.

But did you know that if you draw line up from the two stars on the right, you end up at Polaris, the North Star (also known as the Pole Star)?! Well, neither did I but it works!

We went on to Orion's Belt and a bright star on top, which I thought was beetlejuice, but turns out to be Betelgeuse. Oh well! Betelgeuse is going supernova, which I believe means it is imploding and dying. It may well have disappeared by now but since the star is some 640 light years away we may not yet be aware. I suppose they're all featured on this Jersey stamp, but there's so many stars on there, that I'm not sure which is which! However, the three stars on a row to the top right of the word Orion are probably Orion's Belt so that would make Betelgeuse the big one on the left just above.

I wanted to see my constellation too (Aries) but that had disappeared behind the trees so no such luck.

We could see Andromeda though, that 'other' galaxy. A bit vague, but still. Makes you wonder what on earth is out there. It is all so vast and incomprehensible, and it makes you feel so tiny and pointless and inconsequential.

But in all it was a great experience and the good thing is that you can do it at home too. The guide said not to worry about getting a telescope for that does not really enhance your experience unless you're an advanced gazer. Which is true, for he did bring one and we looked at Mars but it looked rather much like the planet we could see with our naked eyes. Main advice: just look at the sky and if you want gadgets: get yourself some binoculars, or more importantly, a deck chair!

See yous later

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Orion's belt is the three in a row above and to the right of the word.