Sunday, April 22, 2012

Planets and Moons

On Saturday night, one of the dads brought a telescope up to Nick's first Boy Scout camp out.  It was a beautiful clear night and, in the valley where the camp was situated, there weren't many lights interfering with stargazing.  I kept getting dizzy looking up and around and I should have gotten the blankets from the car, one for underneath and one for over me.  It was cold out.

The planets were stealing the stargazing show last night.  Venus rose first, a bright beam at dusk while the rest of the stars were still just pinpricks of light.  Just last Tuesday, Venus passed in front of the sun.  That same path, last taken in 1882, had allowed astronomers then to measure the Earth's distance from the sun.  The view from NASA's TRACE spacecraft shows it as a small dot in the large disk of the sun, like a mole on the cheek of a beautiful girl.  Then our telescope host pointed out Mars which actually appears red to the naked eye.  He had the scope aimed there and I could see two tiny dots under it, its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which were originally discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877.  The Internet shows these two moons as lumpy little things compared to the perfect sphere of our own moon.  I couldn't imagine looking into the sky with two lumpy moons shining down on me.  Our own moon was dark last night, a new moon, not even a silver sliver of light.

Nick wanted to see Mars, so I traipsed off to get the cooler out of the truck so he'd have something to stand on to look through the eye-piece.  It won't be long before he'll be leaning down for such things, including giving me a hug.  He was really affectionate last night.  I'm glad it doesn't yet embarrass him to hug his mom in front of his friends.  I tried to get my phone app to work to show me the names of other stars, but it was useless.  I had tried to use it a couple of times recently and it failed utterly.  While Nick looked at Mars, a couple of us talked about how easy it is to get information about celestial events these days.  Just a click away, even on a starlit night in the dark valley where we camped.  The cold finally won out over my curiosity and I wandered back to the fire.  If I'd waited long enough, Jupiter was supposed to rise, but I needed to put on another layer of clothes before I said my goodnights. 

Thank you for listening, jb

No comments:

Post a Comment