Jag Venugopal's Blog

April 23, 2011

Novice skywatchers

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 10:17 pm

My daughter and I are beginning skywatchers. Armed with a planisphere, a red flashlight, a galileoscope and binoculars, we spend our clear evenings trying to identify stars. We prepare beforehand by looking up charts from Night Watch and observe mostly with naked eye and binoculars. Thus far, we’ve covered the moon’s craters (with the galileoscope), all the major stars in the night sky, and Saturn and Venus. We’ve seen our first double-star in the Big Dipper’s Mizar, and the Orion Nebula. Though not much above rank beginner status, we’re making the best of the rare occurrences of clear sky in southern New England.

A gadget I bought recently that holds much promise is the Celestron Skyscout. The premise is very simple — aim the thing at any star in the sky, and it will name the star for you, along with an audio description. It can also guide you to specific stars and constellations, and give you a tour of the twenty best objects visible anywhere in the world on any given night. Our first unit test of the device went very well — it worked as advertised and was very useful for us novices. I’ll blog more as I put it through its paces, but initial indications are that it’s one useful doodad.

The biggest drawback to being a sky watcher in New England, as I have discovered, is the weather. It is one thing to brave the cold. It is totally another to spend weeks in anticipation of one clear night when something other than clouds can be seen in the sky.

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