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Thursday, April 02, 2009


100 Hours of Astronomy - Day 1

This is the first night of the 100 hours of astronomy, so make sure you go outside and look up. Even if it is cloudy, the glow of the Moon through the cloud will be interesting.

But why just look? This also being the celebration of Galileo looking through a telescope, why not do some measurements?

Not complex measurements to be sure, but something simple. Like, how fast does the Moon move? All you need for this is a stick (a broom handle will do fine, or a camera tripod if you have one) and a ruler or protractor. Tape the ruler or protractor to one end of the stick and you are ready to go.

Go out and look at the Moon, and find a relatively bright star close by. Tonight this will be epsilon Geminorum, tomorrow kappa Geminourm and Saturday night delta Canceri and the beautiful Beehive cluster (see image above). Using the Ruler/ protractor measure the distance between the Moon and the star. You may need a torch with red cellophane wrapped around the business end to not destroy your eyesight and read the markings. Do this again every half hour for a couple of hours. How far does the Moon move?

We are also using a straight ruler, and the sky is curved (or rather the Moons path is a curve). How does this affect your measurements? Does the Moon move the same distance each night?

Update: If you have rubbish eyesight like mine make a home-made ruler with division in thick black texta. My attempt was foiled by cloud after my very first measurement.

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