My beginnings in Astronomy : fantastic yet frustrating

This week-end I had the opportunity to look at the sky at night. I discovered with great joy that the Orion Constellation (left) is right in front of my window at midnight.

By using Stellarium, a great freeware displaying exactly the sky one has in front of him/her, I discovered Sirius, Betelgeuse, the Pleiades star cluster and even Mars.

The further I watch the stars, the more I enjoy astronomy. All this would have been even better if we hadn’t as much light as we now have in cities.

The Orion constellation is one of the most famous and very recognizable with its belt made of three stars. It has many interesting features such as red star Betelgeuse or the Orion Nebula (on the lower part of the belt).

This constellation is also interesting as it enable the star gazer to find Sirius, the Taurus constellation (with the Pleiades star cluster and Aldebaran), but also the Gemini constellation.

With a good telescope, the Orion constellation also reveals the Horsehead nebula, a magnificent object as well as many other (see the Wikipedia article for more details).

For recognizing all those stellar objects, I used Stellarium which is described as follow on its official webpage :

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

During my moment of star gazing, I was able to have a look at Mars which is interesting to look at nowadays. Indeed, our nearest neighbour is every night nearer and nearer as it reaches its perihelion in December 18th.

At this time, the distance between our Planet and Mars will be the shortest possible.

Mars is now visible without any binoculars or telescope and one sees a bright red light when looking at the sky. To know that this light is a planet is simply mesmerizing.

I soon will try to look at it through my binoculars and hope to be able to see various details.

Last winter when I begun interesting myself to astronomy, I had my first look at the Pleiades star cluster (pictured below) as it is easy to see and recognize it.

With my naked eyes I could distinguish a blur of light. With my binoculars I could see the six stars biggest stars and this without having to wait for my eyes to accommodate to the lack of light.

Last month, when our Moon was at its nearest, I had a look at it through my binoculars and was impressed to have a glimpse at the seas and craters. A very interesting sight.

As you understood from reading this article I am very enthusiastic at star gazing.

However, I am quite frustrated as without all those lights as we have here at night, I would be able to contemplate more of them and recognize Castor and Pollux or the Taurus Constellation without too much attention.

To conclude this article, I believe that as I want to learn out more on Astronomy, I will take a membership of the French Association of Astronomy (AFA) and also go through the various stars program from the AFA (more details here in French).

Edit : funnily enough, the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) from the NASA is featuring a great picture of the Pleaides… Enjoy !

3 thoughts on “My beginnings in Astronomy : fantastic yet frustrating”

  1. Pingback: Sustainable development and much more… » Great astrophotographies - April 2008

  2. I never thought of using binoculars to see the night sky and stars. Next time its a clear night I will have to dust off my binoculars and give it a try. Definately a cheap alternative to going out and buying a telescope.
    Nice blog, thanks!

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