Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Telescope, A Hunk of Rock, and a Gaseous Planet

It’s International Observe the Moon Night, so I wanted to get out into the night air and spend some time with the moon. My family and I are on a mini road trip and the house we’re staying in has a telescope, so after dinner, I set it up and took aim at the moon.

It’s you’ve never seen the moon through even a low powered telescope, it’s worth taking the time to do it. You can make out an amazing amount of detail event with a store bought telescope. We all looked at the moon through the scope and it was awesome.

Then my son and I headed out for a walk. TLG is three and he is in adventure mode. He wants everything to be an adventure and our walk down the fairway of the golf course this house is situated on certainly qualified. First we hunted for food, then for sand, then for grass, and so on. Then we followed the moon. My son has had a fascination with the moon for most of his life and I love the fact that he hasn’t outgrown it. It’s fun to find the moon with him and tonight’s series of adventures following the moon and being followed by it were a lot of fun. He knows that humans have been there. He knows that it’s a rocket ride away and several times over the course of the adventures, we boarded a rocket to the moon and walked on it. After our adventures, we came home and I put him to bed.

Once he was asleep, I headed back on to the golf course with my camera and got some good shots of the nearly full moon. Having been to a planetarium show last night, I realized that Jupiter was also visible and so I took the telescope down to the street and aimed it in a Jovian direction.  Once the planet was in focus, I realized that three of the Galilean moons (Ganymede, Io, and Calisto) were also visible and that I could see some of the gas bands in the planet itself. That’s pretty awesome resolution for a planet that’s about 575 million miles from Earth.

After a while, I turned the telescope back to the Moon and after viewing for a while, heard a voice say, “What are you looking at, can I take a glance?” I looked up to see three women walking down the road towards me. I said, “the moon and sure, take a look!” They each took a turn and when the final one was looking, she was stunned. She had never looked through a telescope before and said that the moon looked “just like it did on TV” among other comments. I was pleased to be able to introduce these ladies to the moon. I turned the scope to Jupiter and they were even more amazed that we could resolve something so far away from Earth. I pointed out the Galilean moons and they were awestruck. One of the ladies even went so far as to say that the experience rocked her world. If only there had been an ISS flyby at the time, she would have been floored.

Being able to share the experience of observing the moon and planets with my family was great. Being able to introduce a stranger to these observations was also awesome. As I sit here writing this, looking up at the moon, I wonder, when will we go back? When will we break the bonds of low earth orbit and get in the business of pushing boundaries again?

I hope it’s soon!

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