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Amateur astronomy

March 21st, 2004 · No Comments

from yesterday

On our way home from our friends, I thought we’d try to stop by an amateur astronomy meeting. At the high school parking lot, we found a small group setting up telescopes. Abigail introduced herself to one as “I’m 5 and a half” and the man replied “I’m 71 and a half.” Definitely a crowd skewed more toward the older demographics, and more men than women. Classical music playing while the telescopes were assembled. In contrast, at the other end of the parkling lot, a group of kids choreographed a music video, the lone girl telling the guys how to dance. But they left as the sky darkened, while the astronomers were only beginning…

I hadn’t seen many telescopes and these were impressive size to me. A couple could fit watermelons inside them. One reminded me of a cannon in size and shape.

There was a light cloud cover which made viewing difficult. Venus was bright. We could see it with our eyes. And through the telescope we could see its shape better.

“It looks like the moon,” said Michaela.

And indeed it did. “Crescent Venus” I think I heard it called. I overheard another saying he had never seen Venus at this phase. “Venus is at half phase” I heard someone else describe it. That’s what I saw: as if it were a semi-circle, bright and glowing.

Soon the girls got cold and so we had to leave. Two or three other moms with kids had arrived and were also wandering around from scope to scope. People were generous, adjusting their instruments so my girls could get a better view. Everyone was waiting around to see what the clouds would do, hoping they would move. As we headed to the van, I saw one changing his focus to see if some stars might be visible.

It would have been fun to see more. But I’m glad we got to see Venus. As far as I can remember, that’s the first time I’ve seen it with a telescope or my eye.

When I asked the girls tonight what they enjoyed most about our adventures, Michaela said it was seeing Venus. There’s something exciting about ending a day on Earth with a glimpse of another planet.

Tags: family