A View to a Sky

GUEST BLOGGER: Nicole Richer

During the day, my backyard is filled with trees, flowers, birds, insects and butterflies, but at night the yard fully opens to a view to the sky. No light pollution, only darkness and thousands of tinkling stars.  My country backyard becomes a perfect site for stargazing at night. With this open entrance to space, I had to discover the sky over my yard.  

One of my favorite TV shows in 1981 was “Cosmos – A Personal Voyage” with scientific Carl Sagan. Known as “the astronomer of the people”, he had the ability to popularize astronomy to the public.  From September to December 1981, I learned a great deal about the vastness of the universe. 

Knowing the names of the constellations, planets and stars is just as captivating for me than knowing the name of the birds, trees, wildflowers or butterflies that surrounds me. Go outside, take a look at the sky, you will be amazed! You do not need to spend money on a fancy telescope; all you need is your eyesight and a pair of binoculars. To fully appreciate the night sky, start by letting your eyes adapt to darkness for at least 30 minutes. Once your eyes have adjusted to the night’s darkness, thousand of stars will become visible to you.

Planet Jupiter with her moons, taken 100-400 zoom, F5.6, half a second

Planet Jupiter with her moons, taken 100-400 zoom, F5.6, half a second

The constellations are the easiest to become familiar with: The Orion Nebula with its two bright stars along with the three belt stars; The Big Dipper from the bowl to the handle; The Pleiades, a cluster of 7 stars are also great to observe. The moon with its craters, mountains and scars changes with each passing day. Take a look at Jupiter and Venus, which are brighter than any other stars. Additionally, the sky also offers many objects to observe like the Space Station. If you want to know if the Space Station passes over your home, go to http://wheretheiss.at/ to view its current location.

Orion Constellation, taken with camera w/wide angle, F5.6, 10 seconds

Orion Constellation, taken with camera w/wide angle, F5.6, 10 seconds

After a few years observing the sky with unaided eyes, a telescope became a must for me. A few years ago, when I finally purchased my telescope, a new adventure started where I learned about galaxies, Jupiter and its moons, Saturn’s rings, Mars and the inside of Orion Nebula. I learned that I could take pictures through my telescope! Off course, they are not as flamboyant as in magazine, but they are all mine!  I started using my camera with a 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens to take great close-up pictures of the moon.

Me taking picture of the moon, my camera is fixed to my telescope

Me taking picture of the moon, my camera is fixed to my telescope

Whether you are using a telescope or just observing the sky with your own eyes, Apps are now available to help you search for anything from planets, constellations and stars. With these Apps you can watch the sky, exploring the objects with your iPad. If you are new to astronomy, download the apps Discover Astronomy (guided by Astronomy magazine), it will guide you across the universe. It does not replace the excitement of seeing a planet in real life with a telescope, but it surely makes it fun to have A View to the Sky.

Close-up of the moon taken with my telescope

Close-up of the moon taken with my telescope

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
— Carl Sagan