Why we love reaching for the stars
A little star gazing is good for the soul. When I named my first child after a star, I thought I’d given him a cool name but I didn’t realise it was going to be fun too.
We're a family of star gazers. My oldest son, Altair, is named after a star -- a fact he is very proud of and that has led us to amateur astronomy from an early age.
He has long wanted to know where 'his' star is... and it's in the constellation of Aquila, since you ask. A starry night has him wanting to know where it is. And while a couple of years of messing about on boats, with the looking to the skies that entails, has equipped me with the knowledge of a few constellations -- The Big Dipper, Orion's Belt and Little Dipper among others, I wasn’t always sure of that one.
It wasn’t one that I could bluff, so we’ve all had to apply ourselves to learning.
There’s so much fun in spotting it on a clear night, but also in imagining the huge infinity out there and thinking that those same stars have shone on our world for ever.
The fascination with the heavens has taken us to look at early navigation and mythology. As I once learned how to use a sextant, I did try to explain to the boys how it works... although I am a bit rusty, it was good to see the old trigonometry coming in handy! Here’s a guide to celestial navigation, just so you know.
You might say there was a galaxy of entertainment to be had just by looking to the skies.
RosieScribble covered many excellent ways and places to learn about space, including our all-time favourite the mighty Glasgow Science Centre. I know there are others equally good elsewhere, but we're a bit biased.
All four of the UK's public observatories are sited in Scotland and Paisley's Coats Observatory is a fascinating relic of a bygone era. While that makes it sound old-fashioned and irrelevant, the staff there -- and some of the equipment -- is bang up to date. They are open on some evening through the winter for a peep at the skies -- obviously it needs to be a clear night.
In Scotland we are also lucky to have lots of places where we can watch the skies without the interference of city lights. The best is The Galloway Forest which is Britain's only dark park.
A recent addition to our homes entertainment has been the arrival of the smart phone and with it the star app -– you point it at the sky and it tells you which is Betelgeuse and which is Altair. Electric Pig rounds up all the gadgets that will help polish your astronomy. It’s fabulous and has us skulking in the garden for hours.
Another fascinating diversion for us has been NASA's Face in Space site. The nearest, I hope, my children will get to actually going into space.
Although we have had a great many discussions about what it's really like to be in space, the most recent was today when we were talking about whether or not it would be scary. Both my big boys agreed that if you'd practiced and knew what you were doing git would be just fine and not in the least bit frightening. Oh dear.
Join the conversation
Post a comment
You must be signed in to post to Ready for Ten.
Haven’t registered? It’s really quick and simple.