Not Quite Astronomy 101

For my latest young adult novel, I needed to give my heroine a hobby with some backstory. I’ve always had an affinity of all things celestial, and imagethought it would be fun to research, so I gave her, drumroll please… astronomy. 

My first in-depth glimpse at the stars was in elementary school when we took a trip to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.  I still remember the exhilarating rush I felt as the stars illuminated the night sky above us and the narrator described all the constellations.  To this day, whenever I visit a planetarium, that same thrill swells inside me.

In college, I decided to fulfill my science requirement with Astronomy 101.  I thought I’d get to go to a planetarium and check out the stars via some magnificent telescope in the school’s observatory.  And then I had an epiphany – entry level college courses are heavy on theory and light on real world imageapplication.  I’m not sure how I eeked out a decent grade in that class and then, to add to my misery – I had to take Astronomy 102 the subsequent semester.  But that technical foray into astronomy only deepened my awe for our universe.  

Our family has a telescope, but unfortunately, we don’t get it out as much as we should.  That should change with all the research I need to do for said heroine mentioned at the beginning of this post.  But you don’t always need a telescope to check out some really cool stuff.  Did you know that:

  • The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky (first is obviously the sun, second the moon). 
  • It can be viewed with the naked eye.
  • You can see it from your house!!  Unless there’s a lot of light pollution where you live.    

The coolest thing is that instead of going outside, craning your neck, looking all over the imagesky for something that might be the space station, you can know the exact time it will pass overhead and the direction of the sky to focus your attention on. 

Just visit Nasa’s Spot The Station webpage.  They’ll send you email or text alerts of good viewing opportunities based on your location.  In the name of research – I signed up for email alerts.  (Okay… I admit – I’m a nerd too – but shhhh, don’t tell anyone.) 

So far, I’ve had three opportunities to check it out.  You generally get the text or email a day ahead of time so you have plenty of time to plan your schedule around it.  Smile  The first sighting opp was at 6:41 AM.  A little too early for me.  The second opp was at 6:17 AM.  Way too early for me.  Then on Tuesday I received the message:

Time: Wed Feb 06 7:48 PM, Visible: 3 min, Max Height: 59 degrees, Appears: SW, Disappears: SSW

I even got my family in on the fun.  We rushed outside at 7:48 looking for something very bright moving across the sky.  And there it was. A very bright, round, celestial object moving quickly across the sky. 

Way Freakin’ Cool!! 

The kids got so excited and we even got our neighbor craning his neck alongside us, when he asked what the heck we were staring at. 

The neatest part was seeing it disappear before your eyes.  I can’t really describe it other than to say it reminded me of watching a firework fade before your eyes.  Did I already mention?

It was way freakin’ cool!

But I’ll let you judge for yourself… Have you checked out the Space Station or some of the satellites visible in the nighttime sky?  Are there other celestial objects you like to check out? 

Happy star gazing.

    

 

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