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Stargazing vs. Light Pollution January 6, 2008

Posted by truthspew in astronomy, Uncategorized.
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I know I’ve posted about this before but after our trip to North Carolina it came back with a vengeance. I’m talking about light pollution.

I’d like to meet the inventor of the high pressure sodium light and slap him around a bit. The old style street lights if fitted with newer bulbs would have put more light onto the street and less into space. While we’re on the slapping kick, I’d like to slap former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci for pushing uplighting on the buildings in Providence. I know he’s not the only one responsible, but he’s the closest target.

And while I’m on the subject, I’d like to see a few nights a year of complete darkness. It’s funny, when we flew from Dulles to Boston I could see the amorphous orange glow of the skylines of cities up the east coast. There’s Manhattan, Hartford, Providence, and then the big orange glow of Boston.

Couldn’t we have dark nights? Nights where they shut off the building lights, shut down street lights (And beef up police patrols!) where you can just look up with wonderment at a sky positively strewn with stars. Why not every Saturday night of the year we go dark. We could push it as an energy and money saving idea.

With the naked eye I can only resolve the stars of the brightest magnitude. The binoculars bring out many more, they cut through some of the light pollution and I’m sure a good reflector, say something with a primary mirror of 8″ to 10″ would resolve quite a bit more. But it isn’t as portable as a pair of 10×50 binoculars. The 10 is the magnification factor, while the 50 is the size of the objective lens in millimeters. I bought mine for about $50 several years ago but the price as with everything has now doubled. It’s cheaper than a telescope but you can get a decent little 5 or 6 inch reflector for about $300 to $400.

For now, being a city dweller means keeping the binoculars. They have other benefits too. šŸ™‚

And I hope that the next set of international protocols for the environment do include light pollution abatement.

Reading helps me remember September 14, 2007

Posted by truthspew in astronomy, cartoons, Chris Jones, International Space Station, NASA, Rose Bowl, Space Exploration, Space Shuttle, They Might Be Giants, Too Far From Home.
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Right now I’m reading “Too Far From Home” by Chris Jones. It’s the story of Expedition 6 to the International Space Station

It talks about Expedition 6’s experience in the light of the Columbia tragedy (STS-107).

But Jones touches on the entire history of the shuttle program. In chapter 7 titled “Earthshine” he talks about the first flight of Columbia. I remember it well, April 14, 1981. I was a junior at LaSalle Academy (Beware, heavy Flash usage!) in Providence, RI.

In the minutes leading up to the landing they piped in the chatter on the communication channel between NASA and the shuttle over the school PA system. In addition I happened to be in a classroom that had a television in it so we were able to watch the shuttle come in for a landing at Edwards Air Force base.

I did question the practicality of such a vehicle even then. But it’s key role in assembly of the ISS made it worthwhile.

There have been many advances made in materials research as well as repairs to platforms like the Hubble Telescope named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, the man who discovered the red shift and confirmed the theory of the expanding universe.

Hopefully I’ve given you all enough to chew on. It’s a very good book and a delightful read, particularly when you consider that Jones is a sports writer.

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Now playing: Jamiroquai – Light Years [Live]
via FoxyTunes.

Tonights observations July 21, 2007

Posted by truthspew in astronomy, cats, Uncategorized.
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So tonight I did a little more stargazing. This time I swung a bit west but the clouds didn’t cooperate. All of these are in the constellations of Virgo and Boƶtes.

  • Mu Virginis
  • Spica
  • Zeta Virginis (Heze)
  • 109 Virginis
  • Eta Virginis
  • Zeta Boƶtis
  • Arcturus
  • Eta Boƶtis (Muphrid)
  • Epsilon Virginis (Vindemiatrix)
  • Delta Virginis (Auva)
  • Gamma Virginis (Porrima)
  • More star observations July 15, 2007

    Posted by truthspew in astronomy, cats.
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    So last night the weather cooperated to some degree and I trained the binoculars southward again. I saw the usuals, Jupiter, Antares, etc. But last night I added to my catalog.

    I saw:
    Han (Which doesn’t have a Wikipedia link yet),
    Sabik (Eta Ophiuchi)
    Yed Prior (Delta Ophiuchi)
    Alnasl (Gamma Sagittarii)
    Kaus Meridianalis, Kaus Australis, Kaus Borealis (All the Kaus’s are part of Delta Sagittarii)
    Nunki (Sigma Sagittarii)
    Ascella (Zeta Sagittarii),
    Wei (Epsilon Scorpii)
    Mu1 Scorpii
    Alpha Librae
    Beta Librae

    All these stars are in the constellations Sagittarius, Scorpio and Libra if that sort of stuff appeals to you. I’m in the process of rigging up a mounting bracket to put the binoculars on a tripod and it also has a flexible arm on which to mount my digital camera. Aim and shoot. Maybe I’ll do a video of the movement of the stars. They tend to move upwards and to the right, otherwise known as right ascension.

    I saw all this with a pair of binoculars, they’re Orion 10×50 and pretty good. But I want something more, something which which I might be able to resolve some of the Messier catalog and NGC catalog through the damned light pollution of my city. The something more is a SkyQuest XT10 Reflector. It’s only 55lbs so it’s light enough to carry, and a 10″ mirror is a pretty good light gathering platform. Of course I should setup the Truthspew relief fund, I mean I’ve already got a paypal account setup. And it’s only $550. Help a poor amateur astronomer.

    Stargazing July 7, 2007

    Posted by truthspew in astronomy, cats.
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    So it’s been some time since I took out the 10×50’s. Those are binoculars if you must know. I consider it my first foray into amateur astronomy. Anyway with light pollution being fairly heavy here in the city, I don’t see very much with the 10×50’s though they do give me a better view than with the naked eye.

    For example, when I focus in on Venus in the western sky I can see Saturn to it’s right, and Regulus (77.6ly away!) to it’s left. Swinging south I see Jupiter along with Al Niyat (741.3ly), Antares (604ly), Tau Scorpii (432ly). Directly to the right of Juptier I see Graffias (530.3ly), Dschubba or Delta Scorpii (402.7ly) and Pi Scorpii (459.4ly). All this in a badly light polluted city.

    The abbreviation ly is for Light Year.

    I’ll be doing regular stargazing logs. During this instance I think I spotted a 737-400 if the light pattern was correct and I actually tracked him on a northerly heading for a few minutes.

    I did take off one of the caps on the focusing mechanism and to my surprise there’s a mounting socket. My next kludge will be a way to mount the binoculars, and my camera on the same tripod that way I can focus stars in and then let the camera take a long exposure picture.

    Animaniacs – Yakko's Universe January 4, 2007

    Posted by truthspew in animaniacs, astronomy, cartoons, Monty Python, science, YouTube.
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    So the Animaniacs tackle cosmology/astronomy. How very nice – The universe is a mind boggling huge place. So huge in fact that we use a little symbol for infinity.

    Even our own Milky Way is huge.

    Ok, light travels at 3×10^8 m/sec. Do the conversion to miles yourself.

    Anyhow – the nearest galaxy is what, Andromeda 2 million light years away from the Milky Way Galaxy which is about 80,000 to 100,000 light-years in diameter, about 250,000 to 300,000 light-years in circumference, and outside the Galactic core, about 1,000 light-years in thickness.

    Even traveling at the speed of light it’d take 80,000-100,000 YEARS to traverse from the middle to edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.

    Lets say we manage to get to half the speed of light. To traverse the thickness of the bulge in the Milky Way would take 2,000 years.

    Anyways, here’s Yakko giving us a comical but technically accurate rendering of the galaxy and universe.

    And then of course that was based on this Monty Python skit: