About Time…

Late last week I was searching the ‘Net, trying to see if there was any chance of finding amateur astronomers near me that I could meet up with.  I’d tried the Astronomical Society of Tasmania, with limited success.  The site had information about past meetings nearby, but the last one was almost 2 years ago.  I was beginning to think that perhaps they’d all been abducted by aliens or something.

I struck pay-dirt on Friday, when I noticed that the list of events had been updated to include a statewide meet up, and it was being held a short distance from me.  Score!  I hastily made plans to go after I finished work on Saturday.

Saturday came, with the first thick fog of the year.  The rest of the day was pretty cloudy, but the forecast was for a clear night, so I crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.  I headed out to the observing site mid afternoon, and arrived about 4pm.

I wandered around, looking in awe at the collection of telescopes already set up.  I was a bit nervous, truth be told, as I knew nobody there, so I just said hi to the first person who wasn’t in the middle of setting up their scope, and introduced myself.  Turns out, I’d no need to be nervous, as everyone was incredibly friendly.

The observing session was just what the doctor had ordered.  While I enjoy getting my scope out by myself, it’s an entirely different experience to be able to do it as part of a group.  As part of a group, you can call on the knowledge of other people, something I found invaluable.

Highlights of the night for me were:
1) Getting my telescope correctly collimated, which improved the views I was getting to the point where it felt like I had a different telescope.
2) Meeting other people who share the same interests, and being able to share their knowledge (it’s safe to say that I learned more in one night about practical astronomy than I’ve learned elsewhere).
3) Being able to pass on my knowledge to others.

The worst bit about this is that I’m determined to purchase a much larger telescope so that I’ll be able to see faint objects a lot easier.  Of course, having tried a few different telescopes and eyepieces, I have a much better idea of what I want to buy, it’s just a case of finding it at the right price.  Well, that and actually saving the money for it first, too…

Our Place in the Universe.

I chanced upon a fascinating video while reading an astronomy forum this morning.  In 1996 and 2004, astronomers using the Hubble space telescope pointed it at two apparently blank areas of sky for over 10 days each time.  The results they got are nothing more than amazing.

Rather than getting a blank picture, what they recorded was over 3000 galaxies in the 1996 image, and over 10000 galaxies in the second.  This video has a run down of the results, and what they mean.  Even more impressively, the astronomers measured the red shift of the galaxies, and used the data to create a 3d representation of the space these galaxies inhabit.

It’s worth noting that the area of sky imaged in each case was incredibly tiny (likened to the area covered by a grain of sand held at arms length), meaning that there are a mind boggling number of galaxies throughout our universe.