PostHeaderIcon Studying Astronomy

Apologies for the lack of posts this week, the kids had loads of homework and stuff so no time for idle blogging!

So here’s the scoop. I just enrolled on an astronomy course by distance learning with Liverpool John Moores University Astrophysics Research Institute. Checkout this link

Now the theory is sorted I am off to research telescopes for the practical FUN bit.

Que the “geek” comments from family and friends – but that’s cool I am thick skinned, and anyway they are only jealous :)

Till net time.

PostHeaderIcon Joined stargazers anonymous

A quick “Google” for “astronomy club” turned up one of the biggest and most active astronomy clubs in the country right on my doorstep. So I sent a mail to them and a really nice chap replied with all of the info needed.

I am always weary of joining any local club because of my language skills (see the about section) but the chap who replied clearly has a great sense of humour when he wrote “we have nothing against her gracious majesty’s subjects joining our [stoutly French and republican] club”.

So today I duly filled in the application form and sent  it off complete with the obligatory cheque (yes they still use cheques in this country!!!).

Now when I say that the club is “active” what I really mean to say is that they are “hyperactive”. I do not know of any other volunteer based association or club that has built its own clubhouse. At this point you think “big deal, I know a of a couple”! But let me finish, for their “clubhouse” is actually a fully equipped observatory at 500m (1500ft) altitude complete with not one but 2 observing domes and a small lodge lodge for up to 9 people equipped with beds, a kitchen, toilets and washing facilities and  all of this than an hours’ drive away! Kudos to club!

Anyway, long story cut short is that I joined up and enrolled on their theory and practical observing courses starting next month. This means two things.

1. I get to learn astronomy

2. I get to improve my French!

So the moral of the story is “If you want to get ahead get a hat”, no actually it not that its “If you are serious about getting into astronomy join your local club, not only will you meet interesting people with their impressive equipment (one even has an 11 incher!) but you will get quality training, tips and trick, and meet like minded people”.


PostHeaderIcon Very far away

Wow – After another few earth hours of reading I just found out that the universe really is a big place! You are thinking “so what” I know that already!

But do you know how big it really is?

To measure it and objects in it we don’t use centimetres, inches, yards, meters, miles or kilometres, instead the boffins have created other units of measurement, they use astronomical units, light years and parsecs.  And believe me these are really big units to measure really big distances.

Here’s some random examples:

The distance from the Sun to Earth is a mere 93 million miles (150 million KM) or one astronomical unit (au for short), a short walk in the park in astronomical terms.

The light from the sun takes about 8 minutes to reach earth.

A light year is 6 trillion miles (9.65 trillion kilometers)!

206,265 astronomical units  or 3.26 light years make a parsec and we measure celestial distance using kilo-parsecs or mega-parsecs! These distances really do justice to the word “astronomical”.

Back to telescopes tomorrow but for now I am just trying to stay sane – I mean all of this adds up to only one thing,  that we on this planet are just like a speck of dust in this universe!



PostHeaderIcon One man and his telescope

Wow my first blog post!

I spent the evening reading lots of stuff, and I mean lots. There is so much more to this astronomy lark than just walking into a store and buying a telescope. In fact just between you and me, I do not even own a pair of binoculars much less a telescope, so tonight I started to research which scope to buy.

So what did I learn from my readings? I learnt that:

– The word “astronomy” means many things to many people. However most of us amateurs want to either visually look at (called visual or observing) or photograph (called astrophotography) the sky.

– I learned that telescopes come in many varieties but that there are only really two fundamental types (excluding radio telescopes that the boffins at NASA and other space agencies might use). These being either a reflector type or a refractor type, with each doing pretty much what it says on the box, that is either reflecting light or bending it. Either way the light ends up focused on an eyepiece that you or I look into. A refractor type scope uses a lens to focus the light reflected off distant objects such as stars or planets onto the eyepiece whereas a reflector scope uses a pretty nifty arrangement of mirrors to reflect light onto the eyepiece.

– Oh yeah and I learned that astronomers have more jargon than even the geeks in the IT department where I work, so I learned that ep means eyepience, ap astrophotography and that the “M81″, despite its name is not a motorway (highway, autobahn, autoroute or snelweg)  but is in fact a spiral galaxy to be found not too far from where I live at a mere 60 000 light years away! Wow is that cool or what?

Back to my reading now.