Cycling, hiking, camping, etc — now back in southern Indiana. Words and photos.

Observation

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Observing

(Photo taken by my wife.)

I’ve been making a concerted effort to be a better observer. In particular, ever since we watched the Perseid meteor showers, I’ve been more interested in stargazing. On our vacation, I gained a newfound appreciation for birds, thanks to all the interesting birds we saw in the Outer Banks of NC.

Astronomy

Since we got back from our vacation, I bought some binoculars. It’s amazing the mileage I’ve gotten already from a couple of library books on astronomy and a cheap pair of binoculars — even with the nearly-full moon, when the moon is so bright it interferes with night vision.

The Harvest Moon was spectacular last Thursday, and Jupiter has been very bright the past few nights as well. Friday night I had a revelation when I was able to view Jupiter and all of its moons, through my binoculars. It was quite a sight: Jupiter and its four moons were all in a line. From left to right, I saw Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede, followed by Jupiter, followed by Io. I looked for Uranus, but didn’t find it. I also saw an amazing cluster of stars which I later identified as the Orion Nebula.

I’m still learning my way around the night sky. It’s frustrating sometimes trying to find things, but again, the incredibly bright moon has made things more difficult. I think I’ll have more success once the moon wanes a bit more.

I found an amazing, free astronomy program called Stellarium. You set your location, and it shows you how the stars look from your location, complete with constellation/planet/nebula labels, if you like. You can also search for objects and it will show you where they are, or enter a different time and it will show you how the sky will look then. It’s absolutely amazing!

Birds
I haven’t spent as much time on birdwatching, but today we did a nice hike along Lake Monroe and I brought my new binoculars. They really made a difference. I was able to watch quite a few birds, mostly herons, egrets, geese, and turkey vultures. Some of the birds have quite a bit of character, and I loved being more aware of things going on around me in general.
Photos?

Ultimately, I would like to extend my photography into the astronomy/birding realms, but both can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. For now, I’m focusing on observing. Later, once I learn more, perhaps I can work on photographing stars, planets, nebulae and birds and other wildlife.

For now, I’m enjoying learning more about the world around me — looking up at the stars, I feel an almost childlike sense of wonder that as an adult is rare, and it’s quite refreshing. I’m amazed at the things I can see that have been there all along, but I to which I previously paid no attention.

3 Responses to “Observation”

  1. Bill Lambert Says:

    It’s amazing all of the stuff around us and available to see, if we only take the time. Alex and I are getting back into birding again after an 18 year hiatus. Thanks for the Stellarium reference. I don’t know too much about the night sky, but I like looking at the heavens also.

  2. Chris Says:

    Hmmm….

    My interesting bicycle blog friends are interesting people for other reasons. Cool.

  3. Tim S Says:

    Back before my children were born, or were very young, I went through a star-gazing phase. It’s the ultimate “cheap” entertainment. The late nights/early mornings take a toll, and where we are in the city is a big prob for light pollution.

    As for birds, be careful. It’s easy to descend into ‘bird nerd-dom’. I’ve had friends who fell astray. =)

    Wait, it’s a great reason to take bike rides. Head to a good local with the binocs or a camera and enjoy. SE IN has several wetlands areas.

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