Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Faraway and Nearby Lights

Last Saturday just after sunset was clear and moonless, so we went to the Spring Valley Nature Reserve to look through the telescopes that amateur astronomers set up there 10 times a year or so. About a dozen other people were there. First we saw Jupiter, which was a bright white disk in the eyepiece, with a hint of the banding so well known in photos using much larger telescopes. All four of the Galilean Moons were just hanging there, to the left of the great planet.

Then the astronomer turned the scope to M-94. I don't remember the last time I looked at a Messier object through a telescope; been a while, and I'm sure I've never seen this particular galaxy before. I explained to Lilly the concept of a light year, though I'm sure it didn't quite sink in. It doesn't quite sink in with me. The glob of light we saw had been traveling this way since before there were any people to see it.

Much closer were the constant flicker of fireflies in the tall grass of the reserve. Several flashes every second, in all directions. Worth seeing as much as the deep-space objects, and one reason we come out in July to the reserve.


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