Thursday, November 24, 2005

Astronomy, an all-round experience

I have been looking for something my daughter and I can do together at night, which does not involve television or playing indoors. Well, two weeks ago we bought a 114mm diameter mirror reflective telescope.

And suddenly, the heavens opened up to me. Looking into a piece of black sky, no visible stars, and then looking through the eyepiece, and all you can see is a myriad of dots. How truly privileged we are to be a part of this creation. And which bright dot is Mars, or Venus, or Jupiter?

Well, if you do not have access to a starmap, just look at all the bright spots through the telescope at high magnification. They are not round, as they are lit by the sun only on one side! And Mars is truly red. Even to the naked eye it has a yellow/orange tinge to it, while Venus is a bright, pure white.

I have yet to spot Jupiter, which currently is about halfway between Mars and Venus when viewed from Earth. But who knows, one of these days.

I have always had a theory that the great minds of olden times, like Aristotle, were able to synthesise great thoughts because they were dabbling in many things. Biology, religion, science, math, philosophy, and astronomy.

And thus it is a profound privilege for me to have this telescope, to imagine what they must have thought, looking at the sky night after night, plotting and tracking dots in the sky, on paper, or just in their head, like I do. And the opportunity to teach my daughter the same. Something I never had until a few weeks ago.

By the way, visit for starmaps. And the author also deals with many other interesting subjects.

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