Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everybody gets a star!

You get a star!
You get a star!
You get a star!
Everybody gets a star!

Tonight, I feel a little bit like I imagine Oprah felt after her big car giveaway. It's fun to give unexpected gifts. It's even more fun to give them to people you don't know...

Today, Elise took a nap. It's been eons since she slept of an afternoon, and was it ever wonderful! I have a long standing promise to her that we can go stargazing together if she sleeps at rest time. The rationale here is that, while I'd love to take her out every night, my girl needs a nap to make it much past 7pm.

We're pretty excited about Jupiter's moons these days, and Elise really wanted to see one disappear behind the planet. Consulting the various charts at my disposal, I discovered that Io would be casting a shadow on Jupiter at just about the right time this evening, so we made our plan. Not quite the same as watching a moon disappear, but very exciting to watch a shadow from such a distance!

Seeing conditions aren't brilliant from our neighborhood, between the train stations, train yard, airport and plethora of street lights. Things were also a little hazy in Jupiter's neighborhood tonight, so we didn't end up seeing Io's shadow.

But Elise noticed when the moon finally made it above the train yard. Wow, was she excited. The full moon will do that to a kid, apparently. So, we set our sights on the moon. Andy joined us by then, and we were having a regular family moongazing party right there on our sidewalk on a warm fall evening.

And then, it seemed like a good portion of the neighborhood was out for a walk. We shared our view with dog walkers, old people, young people, skeptical people, enthusiastic people. Our last taker was a dad from two rows of townhomes over who was absolutely thrilled to be invited for a peek on his way home.

It's awe-inspiring to have access to such incredible views. It's even better to get to share them with neighbors you didn't know you had. Technically, I wasn't giving away views of stars-"just" the moon-but "star" rhymes better with what Oprah said.

Uncharacteristically, I'm going to assign homework to my readers. Head outside and look up this evening. Or tomorrow morning if you wake up early. What can you see from where you're at? A lot of stars? A few stars that peek through the light pollution where you live? Does the moon indeed hit your eye like a big pizza pie? It doesn't matter if you don't know the names of stuff up there, just look up. For extra credit, if you have any sort of binoculars at all, you could take them out and explore the difference between what you can see with your eyes and what you can see with the binoculars. Let me know what you see, and also with whom you see it.


Anonymous said...

This morning, I couldn't see many stars at all -- the waning moon was still at 3/4 or more, and its glow was so bright that the stars couldn't outshine it. I could read not just the headlines, but the regular print on the newspaper as I wandered back into the house.

Usually, though, we have a pretty good view of the stars -- a few streetlights, but we can go into the back yard where we don't have much intereference.


Peter said...

I saw a gigantic round star last night. It was silver, and looked about the size of a dime. Does that count?

Crusty Old Grandpappy said...

I am jinxed. No sooner did I read this blog than the sky over Thompson Falls clouded over. I promise to stargaze when things clear.

Jon said...

At 1:15 am there was a brightly luminous disc in the southern sky, softened by a filigree of humidity (pre-fog), sitting in the exact center of a perfect halo of light the same color as the disc. I don't think I've ever seen a full circle around the moon before!