Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

October 13, 2012

Book will take you around the night sky

 I recently purchased a fine sky atlas that has much to offer beginners in Astronomy. The book is “Night Sky Atlas – Second Edition” by Robin Scagell and published by Firefly Books in 2012. The ISBN is 13: 978-1-77085-142-9.

In contrast to books with images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or with giant earth telescopes, “Night Sky Atlas” features images taken by small telescopes and sketches made by observers with modest equipment.

This makes a better match for those with small telescopes. (I can imagine the disappointment of novices who can’t see anything like the spectacles in the coffee table books on Astronomy with their own telescopes.)

 The first chapter, “Getting Started” is an easy to read primer for those beginning to learn the night sky. This includes those observing from the country or within a city.

There are tips on finding your directions and well crafted explanations as to why the sky changes during the night and from season to season. There are helpful list of the constellations (‘real estate lots’ in the sky), the brighter stars and the Greek alphabet (used to denote individual stars within a constellation).

Chapter Two on Equipment deals with: What can you see with the unaided sky and with binoculars? What features of a telescope really make a difference in what you can see? What are the main types of telescopes, their mountings and their performance (their ability to resolve fine detail and their light gathering power)?

Chapter Three is an introduction to Sky Maps (both for northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere locations).

Chapter Four has atlas style star maps, matched with photo visual drawings that show the sky as you would actually see it. The deep southern sky (which we can’t see from Maryland) features two satellite galaxies of our Milky Way as well as the nearest star system to our sun (Alpha Centauri).

Chapter Five is a guide to our Moon, describing its motion, its phases, the main features, detailed charts of each quarter visible from Earth as well as intricate features seen with modest telescopes.

Chapter Six covers solar system sights, from the sun, the nearer planets, the giant planets, comets, lunar eclipses and meteors.

Chapter Seven takes us from the nearer stars to stupendous clouds of gas and dust and beyond to galaxies (other Milky Ways). What does a star look like at high power?

Which stars vary in their light? What causes such variation? What are star clusters ? Why do star clusters look better visually through a telescope than their images taken with cameras? What causes the glowing clouds of gas and dust called ‘nebulae’? What are the main types of galaxies?

This chapter ends with a survey of the best deep sky objects, some with sketches that resemble what you would see in a backyard telescope. Deep South objects are also featured for those planning a trip to Australia or Argentina.

Night sky sights coming up: Tomorrow morning the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). On, Oct. 18, a slender crescent moon will appear above the planet Mars, low in the 7:15 p.m. western twilight.

The Cumberland Astronomy Club will meet Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested are invited. Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up to view the crescent moon.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
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.

    July 27, 2014

  • 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.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014

  • 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.

    July 6, 2014

  • 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.

    June 28, 2014

  • 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.

    June 21, 2014

  • 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).

    June 15, 2014

  • 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!

    June 8, 2014

  • 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”.

    May 25, 2014

  • 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.

    May 18, 2014

Latest news
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads