Western Slope Skies: Astronomy From Your Backyard

Jul 17, 2015

Credit "Astronomy Amateur 3 V2" by Halfblue at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Astronomy_Amateur_3_V2.jpg#/media/File:Astronomy_Amateur_3_V2.jpg

By definition, Astronomy is a natural science which is the study of celestial objects.

It all started with humans looking at the night sky with just their eyes, and contemplating all those gleaming lights above them.

Today there is the Hubble Space Telescope which brings us brilliant photos of far off galaxies, space probes reaching out and sending back images of planets, asteroids and comets, and huge land based telescopes, that since Galileo’s time have grown from 1.5 centimeters, to 1 meter, to 10 meters in diameter.

But, even though we have all this technology, we can still appreciate the night sky like our forebears did: by just looking up.

On the Western Slope we are fortunate to have access to dark skies, where the Milky Way can be seen stretching overhead, and constellations, planets and individual stars can easily be discerned - often in our own backyards. And, while the un-aided eye is good, binoculars, which most households own, are even better for seeing objects in some detail.

The point is, you don’t need to have elaborate equipment to do astronomy, and if your “limiting magnitude,” which is the faintest star you can see, also relates to your pocketbook, there are options.

An inexpensive planisphere, star chart or smartphone app can be useful in picking out objects, but going to an outreach event and getting a “star tour” by a knowledgeable amateur astronomer can be enlightening.  Then you can follow up by looking through their telescopes.

As a friend who is a long-time amateur astronomer said recently, when discussing beginners interested in astronomy: “The enjoyment lies in the doing, not the equipment.”

Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.

This episode was written & recorded by Joyce Tanihara.