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Home arrow Features arrow Outdoors arrow Astronomy

Astronomy

Do you have a question about astronomy or the stars?

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Baker City:

44 46' 30" N, 117 49' 59"

By RYC RIENKS

Hello, and welcome to our first steps along an endless path of discovery. A path that will take us from the terra firma of our birth upward, through the thin layer of atmosphere wrapped around our planet, and on, through the infinite depths of space. Not to worry, this path is time worn and well established and will not lead us astray.

The path to which I refer is observational astronomy. That is, the process of looking out at the sky and coming to recognize what you see, identifying what you see, and watching the changes as the seasons move from one to the next.

From the earliest ages of man to this day people have been drawn to the night sky, gazing in wonder on a sight that speaks in its own voice. As ages passed, watching led to contemplation, contemplation led to identifying, identifying led to theorizing, and theorizing led to greater understanding of the night sky. The striking fact is the path to knowledge is a sandy path, each grain of sand is one small bit of information carefully gathered, examined and accepted. These bits, all combined, result in our present level of understanding of our incredible universe and our place among the billions of stars in each of billions of galaxies.

Significantly, adding more grains of knowledge will continue to lead us to deeper understandings in the future.

To become an amateur astronomer all you really need to do is to look up at the sky. When curiosity pushes you to seek definition of the thousands of points of light you embark upon that sandy path marked for you by earlier observers. Should your interest continue to lead you further you may find your own observations become part of the data destined to become another grain or two of sand marking that eternal path.

The pleasures of observing can be found by simply looking out into the vast spaces that surround our precious home planet and tracking our moon and sibling planets as they move across the background star field. Learning the constellations help you visualize our celestial neighborhood. As in your own neighborhood, when something new appears, you recognize it immediately. Using binoculars allows you to peer deeper into the night, bringing to view more of the stars that form our galaxy and giving definition to interesting star clusters. A telescope will reveal lunar and planetary detail, double stars where the eye sees but one, and reveal galaxies, nebula, and comets.

Baker City and it's surrounding county has skies that open the depths of space to all levels of observers. The view can be diminished by an excess of light pollution. Awareness of better lighting will protect your night sky, reduce lighting costs, and provide better security.

For the week of June 26, 2006, 10 p.m.

Naked-eye sights: Jupiter starts the week 30 above the SSW horizon. Find two fixed points you can align with the planet and watch it move from night to night. Or check your marks against the planet at weeks end. Check the same time each night. Try making a diagram of the motion. About 33 above Jupiter is Arcturus, a bright, reddish star in the constellation Bootes. Arcturus is a spectral type (SpT) K2. This relates to its temperature and thus its color.

Binocular sights: If you are familiar with the Big Dipper you are looking at what is called an asterism. In fact, the Big Dipper is comprised of the brighter stars that make up the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. With a star chart and your binoculars you should easily locate all of the stars in Ursa Major (UMa). A drawing of the stars you see and a little research of the star names will give you your own hand drawn map of one of our most recognizable constellations.

Telescope sights: Jupiter is in fine position and the moons always make a fascinating study as their motion can be tracked over an evening's observation. The constellation Cygnus, The Swan, rides high in the East below Lyra. Find Deneb, its Alpha, and swing right 21 to split Albireo, a double of one blue and one gold star. A favorite for many astronomers due to the colors.

Astronomy Resources

Suggested publication: Night Sky Magazine. A fine bimonthly publication put out by the same company that publishes Sky & Telescope. Intended for the beginner or casual observer, the star charts are particularly useful as the charts diagram the constellations as in other pubs but Night Sky, on the facing page, includes a photo of the sky in the diagram.

The ability to see the diagram and the actual star field is an excellent touch.

Web sites: For a free monthly star chart you can print out go to These charts are available free each month and have a wealth of information about events for the entire month.

Plus they offer deals on publications.

Do you have a question about astronomy or the stars?

or

 
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