Learn Astronomy HQ - A Beginner's Guide to the Stars

Latest Blog Posts:

What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Spinning?

Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg


It sounds like something from a Science-fiction movie.  Overnight, the Earth stops spinning.  To put it bluntly, the results would be catastrophic.  We'll explore some of those effects.  But what if the Earth slowly stops its rotation and comes to a gradual halt.  The effects would be different, but equally catastrophic for all forms of life including us.

 

On that happy note, let's consider the possibilities beginning with the Hollywood favourite:  Abrupt Stop.

Image credit: NASA

The Top 10 Celestial Objects for your First Telescope

shutterstock 40105027.jpg


There's more to see than the Moon

 

It's always exciting when you get that first telescope.  How many of us have patiently assembled the scope on its tripod in our living rooms and bedrooms and carefully turned small levers and focusing knobs while we waited for the night to reveal itself to us.

 

One thing you'll encounter is the relative challenge of finding various objects in the sky.  The Moon is simple enough, but there are apps for various  wireless, mobile devices

How to Get a Job as an Astronaut

cold-welding.png


Don't assume it's impossible.  But you really have to want it, and you might want to keep your options open.

 

Let's get right to the point.  Only a fraction of 1% make it into a space training program.  Of that 1%, all were eminently qualified.  Does that mean it can't be done?  You won't know until you try.  So let's get started.  To begin with, let's get you "eminently qualified."  What does that involve?  Well it means you meet the following physical criteria for most programs:

Easy Guide To Moon Photography

half moon.jpg


You don't need a telescope, camera mounts and motor-drive to take great photos of the moon.  Sometimes a digital camera and some telephoto capability is all it takes. 

 

Astrophotography can be highly technical, require specific cameras, mounts, a motor-drive on the tripod and specific adjustments relative to exposure, timing and determining the exact location of the celestial object.  For many of us, the effort and expense is worth it.  But for just as many of us, the complex knowledge and equipment can be intimidating.  …

The Surprising Thinness of Saturn's Rings


 


As the photo shows from the Cassini Spacecraft, Saturn's rings are paper-thin relative to the ring-width cast as a shadow on the planet. 

 

Saturn is perhaps the most visually stunning planet in our solar system.  While the planet itself is nowhere near as colourful or unique as the appearance of Jupiter, Saturn's rings define its special place in the night sky. 

 

The rings themselves consist of numerous bands with the main ring system spreading across 300,000 kilometers of space.  …

15 “Goldilocks" Factors That Allow Life on Earth to Exist

There's more to life on earth than its ability to sustain liquid water.

 

Earth is often referred to as a Goldilocks planet.  This has traditionally been connected to Earth's proximity to the sun allowing liquid water to exist on its surface.  In fact, that assumption and some others led to something called the Drake Equation developed in Greenbank, West Virginia in 1961.  It was a complex equation that calculated the number of planets in orbit around a star at the ideal distance for the sustained existence of intelligent life.  …

Why our Solar System May be Unique in the Milky Way

We're not alone in the universe but we may be lonelier than we thought.


 

On the surface, our solar system appears to be fairly typical.  While we continue to learn surprising new things about the family of planets and moons who share our sun, we've always been relatively confident that our solar system was no different than any other solar system we could imagine.  This was largely due to a Copernican Principle that held that celestial bodies shared certain behaviours and dynamics.

 

However, some new evidence related to the discovery of

How To Find Meteorites And Where To Look

They're not easy to find, but then again... not that many people are looking. 

NASA meteorits.png


 

As astronomers, we're always delighted to see a meteorite streak across the night-sky while we're setting up our scopes or scanning the constellations for our next setup.  At other times, we're carefully observing an area of the sky in anticipation of a meteor shower.  On some rare occasions we are left wondering in amazement as a meteorite streaks down and over the horizon.  Where did it land?  …

How Many Times Can Light Travel Around the Earth in 1 Second?

If you were traveling at the speed of light you could fly around the world 7 and a half times in one second. Superman eat your heart out.


Earth Eastern Hemisphereg.jpg


That is an incredible speed that blows the mind and really helps the brain to visualise the speed. Is it true? Let’s find out. We’ll need to know the circumference of planet Earth and how far light travels in a second.

Let’s start with the easy bit. The distance light would travel in a second.


The Distance Light Travels in 1 Second


The speed of light is 670,616,629 miles per hour. That is a pretty large number to comprehend. So if we divide this by 3600, which is the number of seconds in an hour the distance light travels in a second is 186,282 miles.

What Will Happen To Us When Andromeda Hits?

The Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbour, is on a collision course with us. Should happen in about 4 billion years though....phew

Andromeda Collides Milky Way.jpg


The Andromeda galaxy is our nearest galactic neighbour and it is huge. Our own Milky Way galaxy, that our Sun resides in, contains about 300 billion stars (3x1011). Where as, the Andromeda galaxy contains 1 trillion stars (1012). So what does this mean for our poor lightweight galaxy when the heavyweight hits? The answer is that the two will merge into one bigger galaxy some are calling, Milkomeda. As the two galaxies approach one another gravitational waves will be emitted that will cause stars in both galaxies to be flung around and some may be ejected all together from the galaxies. …

Falling in Love with Deadly Venus

She's the most Predominant Planet in the Night Sky.  Here's Where to Find Her and When.

Venus-real color.jpg

 

Venus is our sister planet.  It was named after the Roman goddess of love.  It is both close to the Earth and almost the same size.  More significantly, it's usually the 3rd brightest object in the sky next to the sun and the moon although Jupiter will occasionally outshine her.  Its yellowish colour greets us morning and night and has often been referred to as the "morning-star," the "evening-star," and occasionally the "wishing-star."  …

The Basics Of Binocular Astronomy

Guess What.  You Don't Always Need a Telescope.  Here are Some Amazing Things you Can See with Binoculars in the Night Sky. 

Andromeda galaxy through binoculars.png

 

It's a simple fact.  Setting up a telescope for a night of viewing the skies takes some time and effort.  This assumes you own a scope and have the place to store it.  What many of us forget is that a pair of binoculars can give us a chance to take a quick look or spend an evening observing the moon, planets and even some deep-space objects such as the Andromeda galaxy, nebulae and significant events such as lunar eclipses and comets.  …

Secrets Of The Deep Sky Book Review

Secrets Of The Deep Sky.jpg

Having written a lot of posts on this website on amateur astronomy my next aim was to put some of them together into an ebook. The ebook would consolidate a lot of the posts into an easy to read and follow format. You see the problem with a blog is that posts are ordered by date, so a lot of the good stuff gets lost as the blog ages and grows.


Before I embarked on bringing this book together I had a look at what was already out there and that is when I came across this ebook

Landing Sites On The Moon And Why We Have Never Landed On The Far Side.

Many Expeditions Have Gone to the Moon.  Here's Where They Landed and Why We've Never Been to the Far Side. 

Moon Landings 732.jpg

Image credit: National Space Science Data Center


Many amateur astronomers have become students of the Moon.  They can not only tell you that many of the dark grey areas that face the Earth are called "Seas" or the Latin "Maria,"  but  their locations and names.  Of course they really aren't seas but large plains of dark basalt that spread across the surface during a period of volcanism interrupted by a few significant craters including Tycho and Copernicus.

A Quick Guide To Jupiter

It's Fascinating to See Jupiter.  Here's a quick guide our Biggest Planet and Her Moons.

Jupiter by Cassini-Huygens.jpg


How To Find Jupiter


Starting in March of 2014 Jupiter is going to emerge into the night sky as one of the most dramatic celestial objects.  Its dominance will continue for years to come fulfilling its name as the dominant god of the Romans.  In fact the Greeks referred to Jupiter as Zeus which further demonstrates its prominence in the sky. 

 

It will rise in the east, move across the sky high in the south, set in the west and will be easy to view during the early evening hours into the early morning. 

A Night in The Pleiades

They are Rare and Will be Gone Soon in Astronomical Time.  These Seven Sisters are a Great Destination for Your Celestial Observations.

Pleiades large.jpg

 

The Pleiades are a unique cluster of stars that burst into light 75 to 150 million years ago and will disperse across the sky in a little more than 250 million years.  This is due to both the gravitational effects of the Milky Way Galaxy and giant, molecular clouds in the vicinity.  That number of years is a fairly brief event in cosmological time.  …

The Evolution of the Constellations

northern-constellations-sky.jpg


88 official Constellations currently define our night sky.  At one point in time there were many more and both the Chinese and the Maya developed their own interpretations.  The classical foundation for our current set of constellations goes back to the Greeks when Ptolemy defined 48 fundamental star groupings including the 12 constellations that define the Zodiac.  Much of his work was based on past identification of constellations developed by the Babylonians and the Sumerians. 

Viewing The Moons Of Our Solar System

There's more than 100 moons in our Solar System and you can actually see many of them with binoculars... if you know where to look. 

Solar System Moons-browse.jpg


At this point in time, 146 moons have been confirmed in our solar system.  An additional 28 are still under review.  There sizes vary but a few are easily visible to the amateur astronomer.   In fact,  many of the moons that can be seen don't require sophisticated nor expensive equipment.  A few can actually be viewed with binoculars if you know what to look for and where to look. 

How to Start Observing Deep Space Objects

Stephan's Quintet X-ray + Optical.jpg


Beyond the moon, the planets and the moons of many planets there is deep-space.  An infinite assembly of galaxies, nebulae and distant comets.  Intriguing stuff, but not easy to find and sometimes very hard to see.  Here's how to explore deep-space and some of the fundamental equipment and conditions you'll want to consider.


Dark Skies


To begin with, your ability to observe deep-space objects requires the darkest sky you can find.  This usually means a remote location without domestic "light-pollution."  …

Top 5 Astronomy Apps for Wireless Devices


There are Some Remarkable Apps for Wireless Devices that Allow You to Hold Your Smartphone or Pad to the Sky and Identify Celestial Objects in Real-Time from Anywhere on the Planet.


 

It's magic.  Imagine holding your smartphone or a Pad device to the sky and not only seeing clear identification of celestial objects and events, but actually tracking as you move your wireless device from horizon to horizon.  In fact, if you point it at your feet it will show you what is in the sky on the other side of the earth.  …

Meteor Showers - When and Where To Look

Meteor Showers Occur Throughout the Year. Here Are the Key Dates and Locations in the Night Sky.

Perseids over the VLT.jpg

 

It's always exciting to see a meteorite flash across the sky, but it's often a random event. Fortunately, there are periods of time throughout the year when meteorites are both predictable and frequent. These "meteor showers" are often named for the constellations that define the location of their appearance in the night sky.  The "Geminids" are a good example. They emerge from the constellation Gemini in mid-December and are traditionally one of the more dramatic meteor showers.  …

Orion StarShoot 5 Megapixel Camera For the Moon and Planets


This video demonstrates the Orion StarShoot Camera for taking images of planets and the moon. The camera has a 1 shot colour chip for solar system imaging in beautiful colour detail. 

The small 2.2 micron sized pixels allow for a high resolution 5 megapixel image. The video states that you should be able to see the Great Red Spot on Jupiter and the Cassini division on Saturn. 

It comes with its own software and connects to your computer with a USB cable. The software is compatible with a Mac or PC and allows live view video and hot pixel removal in addition to the usual camera exposure controls.


Find more astronomy blog posts here.  Please leave comments on the posts.

Just added a sharing bar so you can share this website with your friends.

All the advice on this website is for information purposes only, please see the website's disclaimer.


 Privacy policy and cookies | Disclaimer | Contact Us | Credits | Resources | Site Map © LearnAstronomyHQ.com 2012-2014