DARK SKIES: What to look for in the night skies this month
Every month, Kingaroy's own resident astronomer James Barclay shares what we can see in our own skies, and tips and news from the cosmos and world of astronomy.
Here's what to expect in September and how you can get into the hobby of star gazing.
Night Skies for September:
This month is the BEST TIME to view Jupiter and Saturn as they are overhead at 8pm and using a telescope of 150x magnification, you can see the 'Belts' of Jupiter and Saturn's rings. Both truly Magnificat ant objects. In the NE after 10pm is a bright red 'star' That's Mars Which will be best seen in November.
At this time of the year at night, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn, can be seen at 8pm, while over in the SW lies the two bright stars of Alpha and Beta Centauri and below them the Sth. Cross. While the Milky Way is still visible overhead, by end of October it will be too low down in the west, making it a no-go, until it comes back up in June next year.
On November 7 starting at 7.30pm, the Kingaroy Observatory is holding a Mars - Stargazing - BYO Wine and Nibbles night (adults only) and bookings are essential.
Astronomy as a hobby
First of all, you don't need a telescope to start but it helps. Even binoculars is a good start. The main item you do need, is a willingness to take on the very first and last science on this planet - Astronomy: The physical study of the Cosmos.
Another way to kickstart is visit an observatory. There you can speak to the astronomer as to what is the best way to go about getting into Astronomy.
Looking at the Moon or a planet with their large powerful telescopes is one thing, but to think you too, could have your telescope and peer into the cosmos any night of your choosing, makes it even more enticing.
But before you take that big step, learn to ID various bright stars and constellations. Doing this will set you on a path of excitement and enjoyment.
Astronomy can be traced back to prehistorical times, when early humans looked up and saw stars, meteors, comets, the darkening of the Sun and the Moon.
They drew what they saw, on cave walls, on rock faces, in song, dance and in fear. They built statues, temples, and observatories, like Stonehenge, the Pyramids and observatories.
To our early ancestors, based in their beliefs, the night skies were looked upon from Demons to the Eyes of the Gods'. Then in 1609 it all changed, when the Italian astronomer Galileo, pointed his small spyglass to the Moon, Planets and stars. What he saw and drew was nothing but phenomenal for that time. It was the beginning of modern-day Astronomy.
Astronomy does not recognise age, creed or colour so no matter how old you are, your religion or the colour of your skin, astronomy is for anyone who are curious enough to look up into that star-studded night sky, wondering how many stars are out there and where does it begin and end, how big is our Milky Way galaxy and why are some stars coloured? astronomy is fascinating, relaxing, exciting hobby, which can lead to one taking up the science as a profession.
Before the digital age, astronomers used star maps and charts to find their way around up there. It was all we had and loved it. Now it's all automatic with phones we have apps and electronic star programs and Go To telescopes from the push of a button.
There are 88 constellations, half of which are in the Southern Hemisphere. While all constellation have fancy names, they all have their own set of stars and deep sky wonders, like galaxies, star clusters and nebulae, all of which need a telescope to see them.
Did you know, out of the 12 Zodiac signs, only 7 can be identified easily with the eye. The other 5 - Aries, Aquarius, Cancer, Pisces and Virgo, are too hard to make out, but they do exist on paper.
My astronomical history spans over 65 years, long before telescopes became commercially available. In those days you either had to go without, make your own (which I did) join an Astro club or use binoculars.
After grinding and polishing a 15cm reflecting telescope, I looked at the Moon and saw deep, sprawling craters, craggy mountains, ridges and shadows. I looked at Saturn and its Rings, Jupiter and its four moons coloured star clusters, nebulas and galaxies.
I was like a modern-day Galileo and I hooked on Astronomy.
If you have a Space question or want or book a stargazing night at the Kingaroy Observatory, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone James on 0427 961 391.