With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing looming, there’s an increasing number of posts appearing about this most significant of humanity’s achievements. The pictures taken during the Apollo missions are truly iconic. To celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary, Hasselblad have reissued their original press release (PDF doc) alongside a Hassleblad in Space page on their web site.
DPReview, an Amazon owned site that is dedicated to reviewing the full gamut of photographic gear, have succinctly reported this Hasselblad event.
Continuing on the recent theme of books about the cosmos/astronomy/physics, I read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli while having a long soak in the bath – for reasons that I’m about to explain, the bath didn’t take as long as you may think, and I certainly did not look prune-like by the end of!
My initial impressions of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics were not favourable. Firstly, the book is very short – a skinny, seventy-nine pages of large print. If it were fiction, it would be described as a short story/novella. Since I was expecting something which was going to be hard science, I didn’t get “into it” immediately. Initially it struck me that the target audience was those who are not of a scientific bent; more arty and those that would opt to read the literary, rather than the technology, supplement of their Sunday newspaper. But, once I’d switched mindset, the cadence of the Seven Brief Lessons on Physics really started to sing to me.
Key points were the non-linear view of time, and also how “now” doesn’t really exist, and that concepts of time can be very localised. For instance, how “now” and localised time on Earth versus their equivalents on Jupiter or Alpha Centuri (four hours and four light years away respectively) can all be very different indeed. It is how time is perceived by the individual.
Furthermore, there is the notion that time is akin to entropy, where apparently chaotic like states are seen to be ordered (past & present), but only based on the order projected upon the subject of the entropic state of time by the viewer. Analogous to bolts ordered/separated by their colour vs the colour blind person who sees chaos since they perceive order based on bolt size!
In addition, how loop quantum gravity might be able to tie general relativity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics together. Furthermore, that the Rosetta stone of these dislocated theories might be black holes. This is because an infinite state is not logical and also that thermodynamics dictates that a changed state in entropy must omit energy, thus Hawking radiation must be present.
Once you’ve read the book, a very good piece of follow-up material is a Royal Institute lecture by the man himself, Carlo Rovelli, which focuses in on the subject of time itself.
It is a beautiful and wondrous sight to behold the body of the Moon…
Galileo Galilee, 1610 First views of the moon via telescope
By any stretch of the imagination, I am not what could be described as an “old hand” at the art of observing our night skies. Far from it! I only purchased my first telescope in April of this year (2019). Neverthless, I’m not a complete newbie to the hobby – I’ve been interested in the cosmo since about the age of 10 when we covered the big band and formation of the solar system at primary school – gripping stuff(!) which I’m sure steered me in the direction of sci-fi and a career in IT. I’ve also soaked up documentaries about these subjects over the following decades.
The decision to take time out and stop working, meant the end of six a.m. starts and three hour commutes. Finally, I could stay up at night, peer down a telescope and still have a decent night’s sleep afterwards.
So the search was on for a telescope and a deep dive into the nocturnal world of the amateur astronomer.
Throughout my IT career, I’ve always documented the processes and methods for new tooling, systems, and methodologies I’ve had to introduce. It’s a hard habit to break, so in the same vein, here are a few of the sites I’ve found useful since taking my first faltering steps towards telescope ownership…
The YouTube videos below provide decent intros to getting started with astronomy. Furthermore, both Astronomy & Nature and Orion Telescopes have a significant back catalogue of videos that are worth trawling through to gain a better understanding of the various technical aspects of the hobby.
In these, you can lurk & learn, read and absorb, research what other owners of shortlisted equipment think of your prospective purchase(s). And, of course, you can post some questions of your own.
Astronomy Now In terms of choice in the UK it’s a two horse race between this magazine and the Sky at Night. To begin with, I purchased both. I’ve since opted to subscribe to AN because I found the articles seemed to be pitched at a target audience which is more experienced/technically savvy.
Sky at Night Associated with the BBC’s long running series of the same name, I find that this magazine is pitched more at the complete beginner. Hint! Subscribe to their newsletter. This provides info each week on what to look forward to in the week ahead.
First Light Optics So far, I’ve used FLO exclusively for my astronomy related purchases thus far. This decision was driven by the sponsorship of the Stargazers Lounge forum, a couple of beginner’s pages, and a web site that was more readily accessible/usable compared to others.
Star chart A view of the heavens from your location
Cloud forecast AKA ClearOutside. What are the chances of getting out to observe celestial objects tonight and the evenings ahead ?? … probably very low here on the west coast of Scotland 🙁 If you’re daunted by the info provided, have a look at the How To Use guide.
Lookup coordinates Know you place! A fundamental piece of data is knowing where you are on the surface of the Earth. If you don’t know your longitude and latitude, this tool will help you.
In The Sky A great sight to visit for a summary of what can be observed at your location. Handily, icons readily indicate a 1 – 5 level of difficulty for observing the object:
four inch telescope
That’s enough for now to whet your appetite and get the ball rolling. In future posts I’ll blog about the books I purchased, software to use, the gear I’ve purchased thus far, and other resources that will expand your knowledge of the night sky.