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May 11, 2012 May 11, 2012

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Venus and Alnath (Beta Tauri) were in a beautiful pairing tonight as I was walking home.  It’s always interesting to have a planet paired brilliantly with a star.  Oftentimes in astronomy when several planets are in close proximity they get the most attention, but tonight Alnath was close enough to complement Venus quite well. The supermoon a few days ago was also quite spectacular, it was indeed very bright and full and the sky was clear.  No screenshot tonight unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the Stellarium on my Linux system to behave properly lately.  Hopefully the next time I make a posting I’ll have pretty pictures. The sky was very clear tonight.

Beta Tauri is so named because it’s the second brightest star in the constellation Taurus.  The brightest star in a constellation will often be assigned the alpha designation; for example, alpha centauri is the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus.  If you quickly search up a star map of Beta Tauri’s surrounding stars on Google or your favorite planetarium program, you’ll quickly notice that Beta Tauri is very close to the constellation Auriga, and may be connected to Auriga’s stars.  Lying on the boundary of both constellations, the star can be referred in older texts as part of Auriga instead of Taurus [http://bit.ly/KvLt7u]. Interestingly, Alnath is one of the closest major stars to the Galactic Anticenter, a region in space opposite to the Galactic Center (the center of the Milky Way Galaxy) [http://bit.ly/Jv7DUE].

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IYA 2009 January 15, 2010

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Dear Readers,

As the International Year of Astronomy winds down,  it is time to reflect on the accomplishments of this historic international outreach project, and its implications for the future.

2009 was a great opportunity for astronomy, for amateurs, professionals and newcomers alike.

Newcomers found the hobby more accessible and more friendly, with the deployment of numerous outreach programs designed for people just starting amateur astronomy.  Programs such as the 100 hours of astronomy, development of the Portal to the Universe Website, and the Galileoscope meant that curious onlookers now were able to fully engage in the hobby.  Each cornerstone project was international in nature, so everybody with a mind to explore was welcome to do so. The Galileoscope, a fully capable 50-mm refractor telescope brought the hobby to people on a tight budget who could not afford the higher end telescopes and binoculars often regarded (incorrectly) as necessary for true exploration of the universe.  It also provided an easy, non commitment-heavy (wallet-wise) way for beginners to try out the hobby and see if it was for them.  Using quality materials and a durable design, the able Galileoscope was manufactured and delivered to many eager hands around the globe, and was a stunning success.  Selling for ~$30 USD for small orders and at discounted prices for orders above 102 units, the Galileoscope is still available for sale as of posting.

Amateurs found more avenues to popularize and expand their hobby, beyond solitary astronomy and the occasional star party.  The International Year of Astronomy brought amateurs from around the globe together, and through the incredible partnership of many enthusiastic volunteers each amateur, I think, learned something along the way.  The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast featured professional astronomers and amateurs knowledgeable in specific areas, who with their collective contribution created one pool of astronomy knowledge that would be unknown to most amateurs, making learning fun in bite-sized chunks.

With the popularity of this event, telescope makers around the world pushed out special telescopes, often at a reduced price, to attract potential customers.  Most were very high quality, such as the Sky-Watcher Heritage 130 P, a 5-inch dobsonian mounted reflector which at a price of $250.00 CAD is still a rock-bottom deal.  It was reviewed highly in SkyNews Magazine a few months ago.  Celestron also developed the SkyScout Personal Planetarium Special Edition, and the FirstScope, a small but able 60 mm dobsonian mounted reflector, with optional accessory kits.  All of these products increased the spectrum and availability of quality optical equipment, at a lower price than ever before.  With the currently weak economic confidence, this was a good thing.  (Especially for students on a pinched budget).

Few people look up at night these days, and even if they do, with the rampant light pollution that plague modern metropolises, they don’t see much.  The International Year of Astronomy raised the red flag to curb light pollution and several programs actively sought to reduce its effect on the hobby, a worthwhile effort.

Of course, amateur astronomy goes beyond just equipment and accessories, and outreach programs. Astronomy’s most important aspect is willingness to explore beyond the obvious and investigate the inconspicuous.   The awe of the night sky.  The adrenaline rush when you ‘discover’ a new object for yourself, seeing it for the first time, or an interesting juxtaposition of stars on the inky background. The International Year of Astronomy embodied this spirit, and the legacy that it leaves behind reminds everybody, myself included, of this vision.  Amateur astronomy is not a hobby anymore, in this sense.  It is a journey of discovery.

“The Universe, Yours To Discover”.

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2010 January 1, 2010

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Happy New Year to all readers.

Hoping 2010 will bring many clear nights to explore the universe.

Observing Logs December 28, 2009

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Here is where I’ll post records of my observing sessions. I will have both a text manuscript of my notes and a picture of my sketches, so that you can enjoy both worlds.

NB: WordPress doesn’t seem to let me post on pages other than this one.  Until I find a workaround, the Observation Logs will appear here.  Clicking on the “Observing” category link to the right should filter the posts and only list the ones pertinent to observing, if that is what you are looking for.  Clear Skies!

Merry Christmas 2009 December 25, 2009

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Happy Holidays to everyone.

I have a link to a great website created by Andrew Fazekas. Known as “The Night Sky Guy”, Mr. Fazekas makes regular appearances on the Weather Network; you may have seen him doing short astronomy segments every week there. His blog website is http://www.thenightskyguy.com. Please visit http://www.thenightskyguy.com/?page_id=2 for his Licensing Rules, and http://www.thenightskyguy.com/?page_id=17 to learn more.

Hi There. December 24, 2009

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Welcome to my web log of amateur astronomy.  Through this blog I intend to record my journey of amateur astronomy, first with a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars, and later on with a dobsonian-mounted reflector telescope.  Feel free to take a look around (there isn’t much yet), and hopefully this website will be on your bookmark list sometime in the near future.

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