Lunar Observing / Deep Sky Observingg

Planetary Observing

The general public’s interest in astronomy is mostly in the moon and planets

Amateur astronomy begins with simply looking up into the sky.

Perhaps you’ve looked at the moon or a planet through a telescope. Maybe you’ve been under a dark enough sky to see the Milky Way.  Perhaps you’ve seen a meteor streak across the sky. Any binocular and a chaise lounge or blanket will allow you to see amazing sights. 

My hope is to introduce you to amateur astronomy.  My experience and knowledge allows me to recognize the sky as a familiar neighborhood.

You don’t have to buy a telescope in order to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the night sky.   If you like what you see and would like to learn more about astronomy, the Star Corral program is a good place to start. You should also check out, th official web site of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa, Inc.

The Lunar Phase Chart: Easy to Learn

The date(s) with virtually no moon showing represent “NEW MOON”.  Seven days later is first quarter.  From day 7 (after the New Moon) to day 9 is the best time to observe the moon because the craters and mountains have long shadows making them stand out.

After day 10 the moon gets brighter and shadows get shorter, so observing does not reveal as much detail.  The full moon at day 14 is just solid glare!  One must wait till day 20 to continue observing the moon again, but it does not rise till late evening in the winter and early morning in the summer. For this reason, we begin deep sky (dark sky) observing around the Lunar 3rd quarter - 6 - 7 days after Full.

If you don’t mind staying up till 2 am or later, you can do meaningful lunar observing during the 3rd or last quarter.  I - however - will be sleeping!

The moon’s brightness and artificial light illuminates the atmosphere to be brighter than the dim objects of deep space, so astronomers share common strategies for working around the issue. If your schedule is rigid, you won’t get in much observing.

I’ve written this brief introduction to the type of astronomical observing most common among hobbyist amateur astronomers. Most amateurs are deep sky observers; that is we look at objects far beyond our solar system which fall into two categories:  1) Objects which are part of the Milky Way Galaxy (our home galaxy) and it’s two companion Galaxies - The Greater and Lesser Magellanic Clouds, and 2) everything beyond.

Within the Milky Way and it’s two largest companions galaxies, we find stars, star birth nebulae, star death nebulae, multiple star systems, open star clusters,  globular clusters (gravitationally closed systems), particulate / gaseous fields, and black holes, neutron stars, etc. All of these celestial objects are far beyond our reach - the closest star is 26,000,000,000,000 miles distant, and the brightest star in the sky - Sirius the “dog star” - the beacon of the winter sky - is 50,000,000,000,000 miles distant. 

At 100,000 miles per hour, it would take a spacecraft one half billion years to reach Sirius. At the same velocity, a Spaceship could reach Jupiter in 24 weeks, or reach the moon in the time elapsing between breakfast and your 10:00 am coffee break.

Birth Nebulae Messier 16 “The Eagle” - birthing center for thousands of stars.  This cloud of gas contains enough mass to create over 1000 suns like ours.

Despite an energy output so great that our sun would hardly be noticeable if added to the picture in true scale, M16 is barely visible from earth in an amateur astronomer’s telescope.

Nevertheless it is relatively close to us.

Death Nebulae Messier 1 “The Crab” - is the remnant of a supernova - a nuclear fireball many millions of miles across - lasted for months and was documented by the Chinese in 1066 A. D. Today convoluted gas filaments are illuminated by intense radiation from the core of the dead star.

The “Tsar Bomba” 57 megaton Russian super bomb dropped from an old turboprop aircraft during the arms race created the largest manmade explosion ever. The fireball - several miles across - lasted for several seconds.

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