Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Now's a good time to see Jupiter, Saturn

As part of their regular "Nightsky Friday" column, Space.com points out that now is a particularly good time for amateur astronomers to be checking out Jupiter and Saturn; both planets are well-situated for viewing right after sunset right now, Saturns' rings are currently perpendicular to Earth (making for much more dramatic views), and of course the weather is a lot more hospitable right now for standing around outside for hours in the middle of the night. As someone who used to be an amateur astronomer myself (including the embarrassing confession that my dad and I built our own 12-inch-diameter telescope when I was in high school), I'd like to encourage those who have never done so to contemplate purchasing or building their own telescope for home use as well. Telescopes are surprisingly easy to make, and you wouldn't believe some of the images you can view through them; even the twelve-incher my dad and I built was able to see the moons around other planets, Saturn's rings, Jupiter's eye, and shadows on the surface of the moon cast by crater walls. Anyway, something to think about, for all you out there who are desperately looking for something to do with your kids besides watching yet more television.