Switching the stars on

Me, adjusting the telescope yet again

I was quite worried about stargazing on Friday, because I was out of practice and the weather report was distinctly dodgy. Actually it all went well. I particularly enjoyed the little kids who were looking through a telescope for the first time. Witha bit of luck I set someone on their first steps to enjoying science. I was hoping to show people a crescent Venus (yes, it goes through phases like the moon, which shows that it orbits the sun, not the Earth). Sadly, it was very small because it’s on the other side of the sun from us, and almost full, and frankly unimpressive with my little telescope. I’ve since found out that it should be well worth a look in mid to late September. The Orion nebula wasn’t too spectacular either. In fact I’m wondering how to get my mitts on a bigger telescope.

The real hit of the night was the crescent moon. It srprises most people that a full moon isn’t all that good through a telescope, because allt he craters and mountains are lit front-on, like a cheap flash photo, which makes them look flatter. On the other hand, the features close to the dark part of the moon are lit by grazing light, and that makes them pop out.

Like last year, it was very satisfying to hear the groan as the lights came back on.

I was going to say the worst bit was not getting to bed until 1 am, but that’s not true. The worst bit was getting back up again at 6 am for an excursion from a cruise ship. But it was an unusually fun excursion. Still, I was very happy to get home for a siesta.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. I’m glad the event went well.

    I did once see the moon through a telescope and the most interesting area was at the edge of the lit up bit (no doubt there was a technical term I learned at the time and have since forgotten – I want to sat even horizon, but I suspect that’s a term I picked up from Star Trek).

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