Learning to do Physical Astronomy? Stellarium is the perfect tool for you. It helps you learn to see patterns in the sky. In this article you will learn how to use the Time Control features of Stellarium.Click here to continue reading…
A “Life Star” is a visible star that could host life. This is a name I came up with in February 2017 (around the time of the TRAPPIST announcement) to describe visible stars with confirmed planets orbiting in the habitable zone. “Life Star” is easier to say and explain. I hope it catches on!Click here to continue reading…
…no matter how long it has been traveling through space, ends its journey in your eye. The light hits your retina and is transformed into thought. As long as you let that star light stream into your view, the star itself lands in you and settles its motion.
When I was 17 years old I went on a weekend retreat run by the Christian Brothers near Melbourne, Australia. It was a weekend of spiritual teaching, introspection and reflection.
Saturday night, one of the other boys at the retreat surprised me. As we stood outside under the stars, he spoke in that matter-of-fact way typical of Australians.
Let’s do some Physical Astronomy. The experience will help you to understand the movement of the earth and sun through the seasons. You will build a scientific instrument that is also a fun garden decoration and you will be able to track the Groundhog’s Shadow all Spring!
Now, turn a little bit to the left, keeping both hands pointing at the sun.
Swing your left arm out until it is pointing in the opposite direction from the sunset. Bring your hands together again and repeat this swinging motion.
Bring your hands together again and point them both at the sun. This time, instead of swinging, bounce your left hand, leftward, some number of times… (14 is perfect if you can do it) …until it is pointing in the completely opposite direction from the Sun at sunset. Your left hand should now be pointing East.
Was the moon at any one of those 14 hand bounce spots? That is the age of the moon in days.
Hello! Find out more about Stellarium in this tutorial that introduces several of the cool and clever things this astronomy software can do.
Stellarium – a glorious gift to Humanity in software form – gives you super powers. And best of all … It’s FREE!
Always wanted to know the names of the stars and constellations? You can search, play, pan and zoom, examine, compare and anchor your knowledge.
It’s a cloudy night? No problem. You can see through the clouds!
Wished that the sky had labels on everything? Stellarium has 10 different label types.
Stop time? Move time by day, by week? Do you want to see what will happen in 2 months? Or look at the sky during the Pharoah’s reign? You can time travel.
You can easily drag and zoom, stop time, go in reverse, make a timelapse, follow the moon through its phases. You have a tool to help you understand the ecliptic and sidereal time and retrograde motion. You can see the great orbital swing of Venus as it circles the Sun.
Ok! I’m convinced by your Stellarium review. What should I do now? What’s my call to action?
Is what looks like sunset really the sun – “setting”?
What is that thing that happens every day that makes it look like sunset?
Can you change your mind easily? Are you flexible enough to understand that the same set of observations and facts can lead two different people to two different conclusions?
For a long time, everyone on the Earth thought the Sun was moving and the Earth was staying still. This is just what it looks like and anyone who dared to suggest a different view might easily be considered odd, or worse, dangerous. Having the benefit of hundreds of years of scientific evidence and wisdom to back up my observations, I now have the luxury of believing that it is the Earth that is moving and that the Sun is the one standing still.
It is fun to imagine being carried through space on the surface of a giant ball. Definitely better than staying still while the sun careens through the sky each day. With this image in my mind, I feel the Earth is carrying me away from the view of the Sun.
Sunset should be called “away sun” and not “sun set” because it is me moving, not the sun. It is me being carried away into the shadows forming behind the bulge of the Earth, not the Sun setting. I am riding the Earth with its great round bulk between me and the Sun.
It’s NOT a sunset but me… rushing backwards… at 1000 mph as the bulge of the earth grows in between.
I propose “awaysun” as the new name for sunset and “towardsun” as the name for sunrise. These new names help solidify the idea that we are the ones moving.
As a dad, I treasure a well-crafted, uplifting gem of a book like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Pictures by Clement Hurd. It’s the kind of children’s book that just feels good to read out loud to your kids. Plus, the illustrations in Goodnight Moon offer a secret puzzle for the attentive reader – or if you, like me, have read the book 1001 times and you find your tired eyes wandering over the pages.
Beyond Brown’s lilting, hypnotic phrasing, and her clever and funny rhymes, the mouse, lighting, and moon illustrations by her partner Clement are even better than you knew! The drawings (more than most other children’s books) accurately reflect the real world changes happening over the time it takes the bunny (child) to fall asleep: the clock’s hands advance in believable increments, the moon rises and illuminates different areas of the room, and the mouse explores.
Good Moon Rising
This site profiles and dissects Hurd’s eminently likable line drawings and discovers a rare and captivating attention to moon detail. Here is a master of children’s illustration deploying the highest level of observational, scientific knowledge and gifting it to children (and their bleary-eyed) parents down through the ages.
Next time you find yourself “In the great green room”… take a closer look at the illustrations in Goodnight Moon and witness an intricately interwoven story being told in miniature; silent, like a mouse in moonlight.
Memorize this mnemonic: The moon moves toward the dawn. This phrase describes the day-by-day movement of the moon. With this simple phrase, you can understand the phases of the moon. You will actually begin to see the moon’s beautiful orbit traced out in the sky.
Repeat. The moon moves toward the dawn. The moon moves toward the dawn.
The moon moves toward the dawn.
It rises higher in the dusky sky after each day. It sweeps over the hills.
It circles and rolls. It transits. It leaves the Sun, then chases the Sun.
The moon moves toward the dawn.
Look East! That’s where the moon wants to go.
Once arrived, it crosses the face of the Sun and once again moves toward the dawn.
The moon moves toward the dawn.
There are many ways to learn about Astronomy and the sky. Some people learn best by reading books or websites. Some learn best by debate and discussion. Some learn by doing.
I like to learn about Astronomy by interacting with people, places, and things. I like to listen to children’s questions and wonder along with them. I like to create immersive real-world experiences – aka “Physical Astronomy” – that help to illuminate the answers – when there are answers – and create tools for thought and imagination.
In posts and pages and links and media I am going to show you how to learn (and teach) Physical Astronomy in this unique way. We will learn about how to foster deep scientific understanding through exercising a sense of place and presence in a space.
Most importantly, I hope to share my passion for Astronomy and share the joy I feel each time someone near me says those epic words of discovery: “Wow – I never knew that before.”