Keep Watching The Skies! My brief encounter with astronomy

Some people, upon seeing unfamiliar lights in the skies, are moved to carry out detailled observations and, in doing so, contribute immeasurably to the science of astronomy.

Others, upon seeing the same lights, assume we’re being invaded by aliens and stockpile canned food and bullets.

Me? I see them and get stressed because I’ve realised that, when it comes to stargazing and astronomy, I actually need resources pitched at five year olds.

For a few nights I’ve noticed two bright stars in the west, stars that I don’t remember seeing before. This wouldn’t be a problem – never mind astral bodies, I’m capable of missing doorways – but they were particularly vivid and attracted my interest, and so I tried to find out what they were.

Now, I have a couple of star map apps on my phone, so I thought this would be an easy task. There I am, standing on my drive, holding an iPhone in the air, looking like I’m casing all my neighbours’ houses and I can’t see what these bright stars are because I’m an idiot and had the apps set to their greatest resolution. Therefore I’m trying to pick out two stars from the entire universe.

So eventually I realise I’m being an idiot and get the universe down to a more manageable level. Turns out those two ‘stars’ are Jupiter and Venus.

And strangely, learning this was quite moving, to the extent that it actually inspired a post over at my Bible Blog. I’ve written before about how I always miss astronomical events, so this was a fascinating experience – seeing two distant planets and realising that’s what I was looking at.

And so tonight I’ll be going for a walk to the highest point in town to see if I can also track down Mars and Mercury. And yes, I’m aware that walking around with binoculars at night is a recipe for arrest, but I don’t care. There are wonders out there.

But if anyone’s ebaying an Astronomy for Inquisitive Toddlers pop-up book, please let me know…



2 thoughts on “Keep Watching The Skies! My brief encounter with astronomy

  1. Howlin' Mad Heather

    Nothing to be ashamed of there. Just glad you got to see Venus and Jupiter, since they are spectacular right now. Mars is pretty bright in the eastern sky right now; Mercury is tougher to spot but hope you get to see it. (I’ve been an astronomy geek most of my life, so you piqued my interest.)

    1. matthewhyde Post author

      Well, I managed to find Mars and the Pleiades last night, but no joy with Mercury – too many houses in the way I think! It’s fascinating though; it’s possible I may have a new hobby…!


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