Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Start Observing – with Binoculars
What does every astronomer need? Most people would answer "a telescope." But, actually, binoculars are the best way to start observing the sky. Many experienced astronomers use them in addition to a telescope. Here is some guidance about getting started.
*Joyeux anniversaire, Jules Verne*
Jules Verne, the pioneer of science fiction, was born on February 8, 1828. He is known throughout the world for his novels (also made into films) such as “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”
Dreyer was born in Denmark on February 13, 1852, but did most of his work in Ireland. He was the Director of the Armagh Observatory for over a quarter of a century. His best known contribution to astronomy was the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars. It was based on the catalogs compiled by William and Caroline Herschel, but extended and updated. If you see objects referred to by an NGC number, it refers to the Dreyer catalog.
*Solar Dynamics Observatory*
On February 11 of last year NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The behavior of the Sun is very important to the Earth, so it's on a five-year mission to observe our star. You can learn more about the mission and see the latest pictures at http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
*Where are they now?*
If you want to know where satellites are, have a look at “Real Time Satellite Tracking.” http://www.n2yo.com/?s=36395 When I tried it out for the Solar Dynamics Observatory, I was at first convinced it wasn't working, because the SDO didn't move. Then I realized . . . um . . . duh . . . the SDO is a geosynchronous satellite. If you can't remember what that means, I'll let you look it up – and *then* you can laugh!
European Astrofest - sponsored by Astronomy Now magazine - was on in London Friday and Saturday February 4-5. I was in the front row again, but unfortunately no photographs showing me sitting next to Dr. Brian May (astronomer and guitarist of rock group Queen).
On Saturday morning at Astrofest, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons gave a talk called “Near Earth Objects – impacts in your lifetime.” His introduction was assisted by having had Asteroid 2011 CQ1 pass within 3400 miles of Earth at 7.40 pm. London time the night before. By the way, no one was ever any danger. It's only about four feet across and objects this small regularly burn up in Earth's atmosphere without reaching the ground.
*An astronomy Valentine*
Here is a lovely collection of shapes which look like hearts. http://www.nightsky.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/2004.02.14.valentines.gif They were selected from the photographs taken of Mars by the Mars Orbiter Camera.
That's all for this now. Wishing you clear skies.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor