Starry Night Fun

I recently purchased my first telescope, an Orion GoScope 80mm Table Top Refractor, from The Manitoba Museum. I had more or less made my mind up for what I wanted to get as a first time telescope, but the staff at the Museum were great and took the time to talk things through with me and get a feel for what sort of telescope would meet my needs, budget and observing goals.

Orion GoScope 80mm Refractor

My Orion GoScope 80mm Table Top Refractor on top of a table no less.

I was looking mostly for something portable, because I get around by bus or bike. The Orion GoScope was the portable option that fit my budget and the refractor design assured me that the fixed optics would fair better on a bike ride on our bumpy roads than the other designs I was looking at.

I was fortunate that they had a display model I could take home with me that very day instead of having to order one in. After we package up the telescope and I paid for everything, the salesman turned to me with a grin and said, “Now that you’ve bought a telescope, you realize it’s going to rain.”

Sure enough, it has been overcast for the last three nights since I bought my telescope and tonight doesn’t look much better. I am a rather patient person, but there are just some things I can’t wait for and trying out a new “toy” is one of them. I guess I’m still a kid a heart.

Thankfully, I like to think of myself as a creative minded person and that I am not afraid to have a little fun, even if I look foolish. The telescope came with a copy of Starry Night, planetarium software for viewing and learning all about the night sky. I installed the software on my laptop and then placed my laptop at the end of the hallway in my apartment. At the other end I plunked down my telescope.

My cloudy night and daytime viewing arrangements.

By pulling up various images of planets or star clusters on the screen, I could view them through my telescope at the other end of the hallway. It was by no means stargazing, but it was a nice way to spend half an hour laughing up a storm with my roommate as we explored the solar system and beyond.

With a little luck, I’ll be able to get out with my telescope under some clear skies some time soon and relate to you just how well the GoScope works. I might also try my hand at some real astrophotography. Until then, here are the results of my hallway sky watching.

The Pleiades - An image from Starry Night as seen through my telescope.

Saturn - An image from Starry Night as seen through my telescope.



Celebrating Firsts

Last night I had the opportunity to attend Yuri’s Night at the Manitoba Museum. I had never attended before in the past, but my co-workers assured me that it would be a great time.

Yuri’s Night is a celebration of Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human to venture into outer space on April 12 1961, and all things astronomy and space. The event is held in the Manitoba Museums Science Gallery, what was formerly Touch the Universe when I was a kid. The venue is perfect for science geeks and general public alike.

Myself, like many others, enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing a couple of old exhibits in the gallery from when we were kids, but we also thrilled to see new and exciting exhibits to play with as well.

The night was complete with bar, meteorite petting zoo and two dance floors. One out in the Science Gallery, the other inside the Planetarium! My personal favourite was of course in the Planetarium, although cramped with limited dance room, there is something to be said to dancing to great tunes while the Zeis star projector spins and jives while casting stars across the dome of the Planetarium. It is a rare and fantastic treat for anyone who loves to dance.

The evening finished off with a costume contest, of which there were a great variety that evening. From a Russian science teem and their cosmonaut, to all manner of pop-culture and classic space characters people pulled out the stops for their costumes in celebration of the first human in space.

The one downside is that there were not any speakers this year as there have been in past years. We can only hope that next year the Museum will bring this aspect back to the celebrations, as I was looking forward to hearing experts in various fields debate topics like life outside of Earth or the possibility of returning to the Moon.