We went to Star party on Friday. Both I and hubby are interested in Astronomy. We often go to Star party organised by a local group of amateur astronomers here in SFBA. They have this star party every week, but we go once in two months or whenever we get company. Few of my friends ask about this Star party, it is for amateur astronomers who enjoy watching sky and spotting heavenly bodies with the help of telescopes/binoculars. Star party is also called Backyard astronomy or Stargazing. I have been Stargazing since I was a 6th grade kid. It was a weird hobby for a kid of my age and among my friends who often asked me what I do looking at the stars, they are all the same. What do we get to see in sky? We get to see Constellation (a pattern formed by stars which our ancestors imagined long ago and hence named accordingly) , planets of solar system, shooting stars, comets, nebulae, globular clusters, galaxies etc.. Of course not all can be seen with the naked eye, some needs telescopes, some needs really powerful telescopes. But lot can be seen with naked eye too.
As I go down my memory lane and think how I began with these Stargazing, I remember of a dear uncle who was a wonderful neighbor and a keen amateur astronomer. He had subscribed for a magazine called “Science Reporter” which had a “Sky-chart” column. NR Uncle used this sky-chart to spot planets, watch meteor showers, comets etc.. I started borrowing the magazine from him (only after he had finished reading) and go to our house terrace with the magazine and a torch. I aligned the magazine to match the sky (basically align the North-South-East-West directions) and began to spot the patters. I have spotted many constellations, open clusters like Pleiades, planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, have seen Halley’s comet, shooting stars, Milky way’s galactic disc and many more. These are clearly visible to naked eye.
I had discontinued stargazing for quite sometime due to many reasons, lack of time, interest etc. until now that I have found a nice group of my taste. Fortunately my hubby has a great deal of interest in Astronomy and we have recently find another couple who are interested in Astronomy. We go with them AR and SC whenever possible and time permits.
This was not the first time we went to this star party, we have gone several times. People bring their telescopes and line up and focus to different heavenly bodies and we get to take a look at them. Many would even explain more about astronomy/telescopes/ their work. For some it is more than a hobby, they are very good at it. Previously when I went I had seen Jupiter and Saturn. Last Friday I was so happy to see below things other than planets and constellations:
M13 globular cluster: Messier 13 (M13), also designated NGC 6205 and sometimes called the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules or the Hercules Globular Cluster, is a globular cluster of about 300,000 stars in the constellation of Hercules. (borrowed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_13)
Whirlpool galaxy: is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is best known galaxy in the sky and has a companion.
Ring Nebula: is a planetary nebula in constellation of Lyra (which has the bright star Vega)
Dumbbell Nebula: also known as Apple Core Nebula is a planetary Nebula in Vulpecula constellation
Coat hanger: Brocchi’s Cluster – is a random grouping of stars located in Vulpecula constellation
Albireo: is a double star and 5th brightest star in the constellation Cygnus (meaning Swan in Greek). It is a bright yellow star with it’s fainter blue companion star. More info: http://earthsky.org/brightest-stars/albireo-finest-double-star
Butterfly cluster: is an open cluster in the Scorpius constellation. It resembles a butterfly and so the name. But in the telescope when I saw no where in my imagination it looked like a butterfly.
Saturn (it’s ring) and it’s moon Titan which I had seen many times before.
I was happy to see a galaxy, globular cluster and open cluster this time. Thanks to all the amateur astronomers for having us see these heavenly bodies. In photo by NASA and others we generally see them colorful but it telescope it is black and white and sometimes hazy and not as big as the photo by NASA. To arrive at such colorful photo it needs exposure for many hours and it might be captured using high magnification telescope and other technologies. For example Whirlpool galaxy that I viewed in telescope was two hazy white patches unlike the clear photo. The sky was hazy else it seems spiral feature can be seen to certain extent. With long time exposure we can arrive at a photo above.
I have used information about the astronomical objects from wiki and other sites here for my own quick reference.