Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.
I love backyard astronomy. Ever since I got my first telescope -- a rather unwieldy 15" Dobsonian-mounted monster that's taller than me, but delivers absolutely spectacular views of deep sky objects -- I've loved to take a star chart, the red flashlight, and head out into a dark location to see what's up.
I have the Petersen's guide, the Rough Guide to the Universe , H.A. Rey's really wonderful The Stars: A New Way to See Them, and a few virtual planetariums that I use to plan an evening's viewing, like Stellarium and KStars.
While I rarely drag the huge telescope out of the garage any more (it's just too big to really be practical) I frequently take a blanket out back, a pair of binoculars, and play "find that Messier object."
If you're into this sort of thing like I am, you may be as excited as I was to read about a Free ebook offered for download called What's Up?
If you like the weekly “What’s Up this Week” column in Universe Today, you’ll love this. The entire viewing schedule for 2007 is available as a free, 410+ downloadable ebook. You can download the whole book, turn to the page for tonight’s suggestions - print off the page and head outside.It's 24MB, and it's in .pdf format, so you can easily print it out or view it in a variety of readers. It offers different celestial destinations and observations for every night, along with historical and scientific information about the stars and planets, but it's much, much more than just a guide. It's beautifully written (Look at January 3rd, for an example) and educates as it challenges the reader. If you're looking to get your kids excited about astronomy, review a day's entry, then take them out that night and tell them, as they look at the Full Wolf Moon:
In Europe it was referred to as the Moon after Yule and 387 years ago on this night, Galileo Galilei changed the face of astronomy when he observed it. Pointing his newly developed telescope at our nearest celestial neighbor, his observation of mountains and craters on the surface opened the world’s eyes to what lay just beyond the range of human sight. Said Galileo, “It is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the Moon."As you can probably tell, I love astronomy, I love history, and I love science, so it was only natural that I'd love this book, and I'm delighted that the author is offering it for free. If you're the type of person who likes to support this sort of thing, you can also buy a copy of the book in dead tree format for $25.
Clear skies, everyone!
(via Netscape News)