Holiday hints for the astronomer

The amount of stuff available for backyard astronomers is now almost unbelievable

The amount of stuff available for backyard astronomers is now almost unbelievable. We can only look at a few key items here.  If you are the family astronomer, your loved ones will of course appreciate some strategically dropped hints.

There is a huge choice of software available. There are programs for observation planning and also doing research into past or future astronomical events. Ephemeris and star map software can be used to produce maps showing what’s in the sky from any location at any time. There are some free programs that are really good, such as Stellarium, which you can download from www.stellarium.org/.

Despite the software option, a good-quality printed star atlas is a must-have. These range from desktop works of art to workhorse ones for taking outside. The Wil Tirion Sky Atlas 2000 is a wonderful thing for indoor observation planning. If possible, get the deluxe, colour, laminated version. It’s beautiful. For taking outside there are few equals to Norton’s Star Atlas. This has been around for decades, going through edition after edition. The maps are printed on flat pages without folds, so Norton’s is easier to use outside.  Your copy will survive being dropped in the mud far better than will your laptop, no matter how good the astronomy software is that you have installed on it.

Another must-have is a planisphere. This useful little gadget consists of two plastic discs (don’t even consider getting a cardboard one) with a rivet through the centre. The bottom disc bears a star map and a calendar printed around the edge. The upper one has a clear window in it and Local Standard Time printed around the edge. Line up the time with the date, and through the window you’ll see what stars and constellations are visible in the sky. Planispheres come in various sizes; get the biggest you can. Make sure you get the right one for your latitude. That brings us to the third must-have: the Observer’s Handbook. This is published every year by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. It is a mine of information, including what is going on in the sky every day of the year.

As manuals for the beginner backyard astronomer, you might consider Nightwatch, by Terence Dickinson, and the Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer. These are only two examples of a large and growing choice. However, before pulling out your wallet, consider where you will be using your books. There has been an unfortunate trend from ring-bound books printed on thick paper (fairly drop proof, mud proof and which open flat) to glued books with thinner paper, which are more suitable for use inside only.

These books are in most bookstores. However, if you want to discuss book possibilities with knowledgeable people, try your local science store. That is also the best place to find planispheres, software and other astronomical stocking stuffers. If you have no science store in easy range, there are some excellent Canadian ones on the web. Another source of suggestions and advice is your local astronomy club. You may end up joining.

P Jupiter is unmissably bright and dominates the southern sky during the night. Mars rises around 11 p.m., Saturn around 3 a.m. Venus might be visible low in the southwest after sunset. The moon will reach last quarter on Saturday.

 

Ken Tapping is an astronomer with the National Research Council’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, and is based at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton.

 

 

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Shinedown and Papa Roach light up Penticton’s SOEC

Asking Alexandria and Savage After Midnight opened the show on Oct. 16

How local candidates are using Facebook to advertise directly to you

Liberal campaign is the biggest spender on Facebook ads in South Okanangan–West Kootenay

Grab your Lederhosen, Penticton Oktoberfest is tomorrow!

The 10th annual event is hosted at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and kicks off Penticton Beer Week

South Okanagan’s first swim meet of the season

The Penticton KISU Swim Club is hosting its first meet of the season this weekend

Charles wows them at iconic South Okanagan venue

Blues musician Michael Charles played to a sold-out crowd at the Dream Café Saturday

VIDEO: First all-female spacewalk team makes history

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir did work on International Space Station’s power grid

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

Natalie MacMaster makes Okanagan one of two B.C. stops

Queen of the Fiddle in town Oct. 24

Shooters compete in Summerland

Seven youth participants take aim

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Swedish teen was met with some oil and gas industry supporters who came in a truck convoy

RDOS cannabis production bylaw goes to public hearing

Hearing on micro cannabis production facilities will be held Nov. 21

Scheer denies spreading ‘misinformation’ in predicting unannounced Liberal taxes

Conservative leader had claimed that a potential NDP-Liberal coalition could lead to a hike in GST

Council asks to limit cruise ship visits to Victoria harbour

Mayor says motion is not meant to curtail current visits or limit local cruise industry expansion

Most Read