Exploring The Universe From Your Backyard
Whether we are young or old, live in a large city or suburban town, we have all stopped to gaze and admire the spectacle of the night sky at some point in our lives. To be sure, the breathtaking view of the world beyond still tempts most of us to observe and get intimate with the universe through using telescopes.
Scientists today are working round the clock to increase humanity's knowledge of the universe using advanced and remarkable technologies. Now, most of us cannot become astrophysicists or scientists specializing in studying the stars, planets, and constellations. Still, we can build a small setup in our backyards to soak in and experience the magic of the universe. Remember that humans have made some of the most significant discoveries without the help of advanced electronic systems and million-dollar budgets.
For beginners, not knowing where to start or what to look for can be challenging. This blog brings some useful tips to help you start exploring the universe from your own backyard.
1. Choose a location
Ensure that you should get as much view of the sky as possible. If you live in a place where pollution and tall buildings obstruct your view, get up as high up as you can.
2. Choose the Right Flashlight
You may want to buy a flashlight to help you find your way through the darkness or prevent you from stumbling and falling off rooftops, choose one with a red filter. Red light is less detrimental to your night vision than white or blue lights.
3. Do Not Buy a Telescope Right Away
It can be a temptation for beginners to buy all sorts of high-tech apparatus, including a telescope, immediately. However, they soon start getting frustrated as what they observe may not make any sense to them. We recommend that beginners get familiar with the night sky first before buying a telescope or other instruments. Binoculars can help beginners gather a lot of details and are not so expensive.
4. The Best Time For Gazing
The best time to view the sky is on clear winter nights when there is no humidity in the air or when the moon is in the new or crescent phase, meaning it is not there in the sky to wash out the light of the stars and planets with its light. Moonlight can make it difficult for stargazers to identify distant stars and planets.
5. Get Yourself a Star Chart Apart From Apps
Star charts are old school, as many stargazing apps are now available on computers and smartphones. However, we recommend that beginners download and print a star chart as it is still the best way to learn about the sky and teach you a little more than modern-day gadgets. We also suggest that beginners download some useful apps such as Starwalk, Stellarium, Google Sky Map, Exoplanet, etc. These apps are advanced, interactive, and contain data from a wide range of sources such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, NASA's Chandra satellite, and the Hubble Space Telescope.
6. Follow Astronomers on Twitter
Twitter is an excellent forum for getting information on Astronomy. There are many astronomers on Twitter, so you can gain valuable insight and knowledge by following them.
7. Find an Amateur Astronomer Club in Your Area
An excellent way to learn the skies is with other people. Find an amateur astronomer's club in your area. They will help you decide on the best apparatus for your budget and could help you gain access to a local observatory if there's one in your area. Also, their experts can guide you on how to use the various instruments.
8. Learn to Differentiate Between Stars and Planets
If there is a bright light sparkling in the sky, it is a star. If it does sparkle, is more brilliant than other objects around it, and appears to be not moving, it is a planet.
9. Use Your Eyes and Imagination
There are many advanced tools to help us navigate the skies; however, astronomers still recommend ignoring them every once in a while and gazing at the sky with your eyes. It is how our ancestors also viewed the universe for thousands of years.
How Can You Contribute By Exploring The Universe From Your Backyard?
The most significant advantage that backyard astronomers enjoy is the availability of modern technologies that the various astronomy pioneers could only dream about. Backyard explorers have access to commercially available optical devices that deliver superb performance at a low cost. They are not required to build their equipment like astronomers in the past, but instead, they can purchase apparatus with built-in advanced technologies. Some of the most notable astronomical discoveries, such as comets, were made by non-professional observers using commercially available equipment from their backyard. Backyard explorers can share their observations via the internet.
Modern-day devices that are not too expensive and are easily accessible to backyard explorers enable you to take clear and beautiful photographic images. These images can be as awe-inspiring as those taken by giant space telescopes like Hubble and help one absorb the magic of the universe.
By sharing the observations, backyard explorers play their part in large grid computing projects. These grids are virtual spaces where many users donate computing time to achieve a common goal. These grids have allowed a vast amount of computing power to be devoted to discovering new celestial objects such as asteroids, comets, etc., and the development of advanced products.
Problems Faced By Backyard Explorers
Essentially, backyard explorers face two significant problems. The first is pollution, either light or air pollution, and the second is rapid urbanization. Bright lights at night interact with dust or water particles present in the atmosphere and make it challenging to spot distant objects such as galaxies or nebula. With bright lights all around, it may not get dark enough to observe some of the more delicate night sky features. Rapid urbanization requires backyard explorers to look for high spots as tall structures obstruct their sky view.
We hope this blog helped you gain a thoughtful insight into what it is like to explore the universe from your backyard. For more such interesting blogs and articles, please stay connected with us.