Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stargazing 101

Astronomy has been a hobby of mine for a long time, focusing mostly on the science behind it and the theoretical wonders of the universe. I haven't spent much time actually looking at the sky and learning where stuff is and what can be seen.
A big reason for this is the fact that I live in the second largest city in Denmark so light pollution is rampant but also that I live in an apartment complex so there is no place for me to really look up at the sky.
But also the fact that I'm lazy and continually finding excuses for not driving out of town to look at the sky, has hindered my learning of the actual night sky.

Today, as a birthday gift (for me), I was given an introductory course in stargazing/astronomy by my girlfriend (who's also joining the course). The course is taking place at the Ole Rømer Observatory in Aarhus.
It's a four lecture course where we are introduced to the sky and taught what we can see, where and when. General astronomy is also a part of the course (understanding of the size of the sky we can see and the distance to the visible stars, for instance) and, if we are lucky, we'll get to see the sky through the telescope at the observatory.

There are two separate telescopes; one a 50cm mirror being used for research by the institute of astronomy at the university and the other a tandem 11" telescope which is used by the public.

If the weather isn't with us and the sky isn't clear during the course, the observatory has 15 free tours every month (between September and April) where everyone can come and see the observatory, learn it's history and see through the telescope. So there are plenty of opportunities to see the sky through a real telescope.

Hopefully taking this course will inspire me enough to actively go and look at the sky more often. It doesn't take long to drive outside of the city and just sit down in a chair with some hot chocolate and be amazed.