A while back, I purchased an unusual paperback book called “Night Sky” by Nicholas Nigro.
This book is part of a series of Knack Make It Easy books that cover many types of cooking, house and home topics, music, child and pet rearing and lastly weddings!
This book is intended for sky gazers both in the northern and southern hemispheres.
The topics covered start with those important for beginners, then those for the intermediate sky gazers and at the end, the best objects likely viewed by those using binoculars and small telescopes.
This arrangement makes reading more suited for learning as some topics are covered several times, reinforcing the key ideas but adding more refinements.
“Night Sky” has a nice balance between text, diagrams and real images.
Each topic covers typically two to four pages, assuring some insights but not overloading the reader with details. You don’t have the read this book from cover to cover; you can instead read just one chapter at a time or even just one topic from that chapter.
Aside from a few mistakes, typical for a first edition, “Night Sky” is a book I would recommend for most readers interested in learning what’s over our heads.
Following are some space ideas from “Night Sky,” not usually covered in most novice sky books.
Our atmosphere has four layers, starting with the troposphere that blankets the Earth and contains 80 percent of the atmosphere’s weight.
The coldest part of the atmosphere is the upper layers of the mesosphere (above the stratosphere where jets fly), This is also the region of the atmosphere where pebble sized meteoroids burn up, causing what most call shooting stars.
The hottest part of our atmosphere is the thermosphere, reaching up to 600 km (400 miles) altitude. This region has a extremely low density so the International Space Station is not fried by orbiting through this layer.
Sundials work differently in the northern and southern hemispheres.
When we face the dial to read the time in our hemisphere, we face south. The shadow of the upright rod moves to the left or clockwise.
But in the southern hemisphere, the sun is in the north. As we face the dial to read the time, the shadow of the rod moves to the right or counterclockwise.
The number of stars seen in the southern hemisphere is larger than the star number in the northern hemisphere.
This is due to the center of our galaxy lying in the star group Sagittarius, which appears much higher in the southern hemisphere.
If we consider the stars and constellations visible every night in the north (for our latitude of approximately 40 degrees), there are no bright stars continually in view and just five star groups always on display.
But if we consider the skies of New Zealand (40 degrees south latitude), there are six bright stars always in view and nearly twice as many star groups always on display in the South.
But directions are not as easy “down under” as they can’t see our North Star, nor is there any South Star.
A consolation for those below the equator is that their air is clearer, as only 10 percent of the world’s population lives below the equator. With fewer people, less pollution and better sky gazing.
Why does the moon have grey plains (seen as the man or lady in the moon) and why does Mars look orange when closest to Earth?
The answer to both questions is the higher iron concentration on both the surfaces of the moon and Mars. On the moon, the grey plains are made of basaltic rock (just like our ocean floors) in contrast to the low iron surface of the highlands (where most craters lie).
The surface of Mars is covered with iron oxide (rust), with oxygen (oxide) from the early Martian atmosphere that bonded with iron in the soil.
SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: The moon is now a waning crescent in the morning sky. This Thursday at 6:30 a.m., the crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus.
With the moon absent from the evening sky, the winter stars and groups are at their best in the South. Orion with his three star belt is easily viewed.
The belt if extended up and to the right will take us to Aldebaran (the Bull’s eye) and beyond to the very bright planet Jupiter.
Orion’s belt if extended down and to the left will take us to Sirius, the night’s brightest star.
From our latitude, Sirius is the closest night star visible to the eye at a distance of 8.6 light years. (Alpha Centauri, a star seen from the tropics but not from our area is about half as far away as Sirius).
Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at email@example.com . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.
A while back, I purchased an unusual paperback book called “Night Sky” by Nicholas Nigro.
- Bob Doyle - Astronomy
FSU Planetarium has new outreach program
Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.
It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore
At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.
Fronts, highs, lows determine weather
Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.
A long and winding road faces our food
Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.
Here’s a look at what goes on inside you
In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.
Moon-watching easy when you know how
Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.
Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets
How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).
Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one
At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!
Think a little more and be less frazzled
Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.
Technology helps with learning, but take care
Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.
- More Bob Doyle - Astronomy Headlines
- FSU Planetarium has new outreach program