Even when caregivers can’t leave home, they can still take a mental break by gazing up at the heavens. Paying attention to what’s happening in the sky is one way to escape the brain freeze that comes from being indoors all day and from taking care of a sick person. When you step out onto the porch, can you see the moon? Do storm clouds cover the entire sky, or are the stars peeking through?
What about astronomical events that happen only rarely: a solar or lunar eclipse? Mark Twain built the plot of his novel, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, around the day the sun went dark and spread fear throughout the realm. To observe a solar eclipse, you need to make special preparations. Meteor showers happen more often. If you have a van with a lift or an RV, a campground is the perfect place to see this spectacular display.
In 2015 the Perseid meteor shower began on August 12 and continued till August 26. If you didn’t make it this year, read this article from Star and Telescope and get organized for the next one. And, here’s a calendar that will give you dates for the next two years of meteor showers. Nothing is more fun that lying in a sleeping bag, all warm and toasty, and looking up at nature’s fireworks-display.
The most exciting astronomical event of August 2015 is the Perseid meteor shower. The shooting star event that peaks in mid-August will light up the night sky offering a spectacular sight for the astronomy enthusiasts. Here is a guide to all the […]
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Stargazing Apps to Navigate the Night Sky
Now, here’s the real reason astronomy fascinates me. Four years ago I began writing a historical novel, The Vermillion Sea. One of the main characters is the French astronomer Chappe d’Auteroche. He is frantically trying to reach the tip of Baja California in time to set up for the Transit of Venus observations of June 3, 1769. Two weeks before that date, he lands on the desolate beach near San Jose del Cabo. His diary records his joy as he stares up at the stars. Of course, Baja would be an extraordinary place to see them. A cloudless sky. No doubt Chappe could identify all the major constellations.
The night sky is a big place, and if you’re like me, you can probably find the Big Dipper. I was at my sister’s house recently, and she showed how her iPad could bring up the constellations. I’m using an app to backtrack to the date in 1769 that Chappe would have found himself on that beach. To write the scene accurately, I need to know what Chappe saw when he looked up.
Here are a couple of places to find apps for iOS and Android devices. If you have an iPad, check out these ten apps. If you have a favorite app that lets you track the stars, please leave a comment. Also, where have you had your best view of the night sky? On vacation, at sea, or in the mountains? Did you have trouble identifying the constellations, or do you know the main ones? As for me I envy people who can identify the signs of the Zodiac. It would be so comforting to look up there, and in all that vast expanse, know what I was looking at.