Waiting for the Sky Show


 

It was an ideal summer night for a public star party. Like it was a summer music festival, people set up lawn chairs and laid out blankets to sit and lie back and watch the show — the sky show.

This was the scene at Saturday’s Milky Way Night, July 21,  at the local university’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory. Several hundred people attended under ideal clear skies to watch the summer stars appear and revel in the Milky Way away from city lights. Here, people gaze westward after sunset to see the triangular gathering of Saturn, Mars and Spica in the evening twilight. Lots of mobile phones were held skyward as people used their new astronomy apps to identify what they were seeing. These apps are probably the most effective means now for people to get into astronomy. Lots of people were using them this night.

— Alan, July 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Saturday Night Stargazing


It was a marvellous night for the Milky Way … and some Saturday Night Stargazing.

This was the scene at the University of Calgary’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday night (Sept 17, 2011) as a crowd of about 250 people took in the wonders of the night sky at one of the Observatory’s monthly Open Houses. Skies were excellent and a late moonrise left dark skies early on for views of the Milky Way, a seldom seen part of nature for city-dwellers. A dozen volunteers from the local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada provided telescopes and expertise to tour people around night sky wonders, from comets to star clusters. Many people are delighted just to have the constellations pointed out, so they can identify the patterns whose names they have heard of but have never seen.

What always impresses me about such events is how much interest the public shows, and how much the kids in attendance know about astronomy and space. One young man, age 10 or so, in seeing some of the images, like this one, that I was taking pop up on my camera screen, asked if I do piggyback photography! At his age I’m not sure I knew about piggyback photography!

We see all ages at our public stargazing events, all expressing the same “Wow! That’s cool!” reaction. Hearing the comments gives us astronomers a charge — we get as much back from the guests as we hope we provide them.

— Alan, Sept. 18, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

 

A Super Star Party Sky


This is the kind of sky that makes astronomers smile. Clear and painted with twilight colours.

This was the scene two weekends ago, on August 26, at the annual Starfest star party in southern Ontario. Starfest is Canada’s biggest annual astronomy gathering and this year attracted about 700 people, filling the campground with tents, trailers and telescopes.

I was fortunate enough to be able attend this year, as one of the guest speakers in a pretty full program of afternoon and evening talks. I presented two talks, on the “Great Southern Sky” and on “Ten Tips for Better Pix,” plus presented a laser tour of “my sky” after dark on the Friday.

Starfest, as with other star parties I’ve been to lately, hasn’t fared well for weather in the last few years, but this year the clouds (mostly!) stayed away and people enjoyed a fabulous weekend under the Milky Way and summer stars.

This is a roughly 180° panorama taken at twilight, showing the rising dark blue arc of Earth’s shadow at left, with a strangely bright glow in the atmosphere above it. At right is the glow of sunset and some crepuscular rays (shadows from distant clouds) visible as bright and dark bands across the sky.

Starfest is a great star party. Anyone in eastern Canada interested in astronomy should make a point of attending. Next year’s event is August 16-19, 2012.

— Alan, Sept 11, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer