Stargazer: The light you’re seeing took ages to get here - Brownsville Herald: Education

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Stargazer: The light you’re seeing took ages to get here

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Posted: Monday, December 30, 2019 10:10 am

Almost another decade has passed and I wonder where the time goes; the older I get, the faster it flies. As we approach 2020 this week, perhaps you will have an opportunity to travel to a dark site and enjoy the panorama of stars. Light pollution is creeping into our neighborhoods at a rapid pace. Growth is good, but I do hope we keep in mind that science is showing there is a connection between lack of darkness and several health related concerns with living beings, not to mention it is more difficult to see any stars in the sky.

Let’s spend the evenings as weather permits enjoying the stately motion of Venus and Saturn high in the southern regions of sky. Careful observation will show these two moving closer to each other. If you have an elementary school student who is remotely interested in astronomy, measuring the distance between the two would be a great science fair project. If someone is interested in doing that, you can contact me through the newspaper.

When you look at those distant points of light in the sky the light has traveled via particles called photons to reach the retina of your eye. Since the human eye cannot retain what it sees, we see none of the details revealed when images are created via the collecting of multiple minutes or hours of photons that we see in the books and magazines or online images of what is up there. Those delicate wisps of color are the result collecting particles of light, much like the surface of that undusted classroom bookshelf collects and reveals all the dust particles floating around in the air.

The images on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website are the results of light that travels in the many wavelengths in which it

exists. A variety of specialized telescopes send data via a vast array of radio telescopes scattered around the globe to computers. The information is then sorted and colors of elements are assigned arbitrarily and eventually the hidden beauty and mysteries of space are revealed in their true splendor. Telescopes that collect images in the Ultra-violet and X-ray wave lengths reveal more mysteries than can be imagined unless one goes online to see them.

This week the moon is waxing and this is a perfect time to use those Christmas binoculars or telescopes to search the lunar surface along the terminator line, where the shadow and light separate into two parts, and look at the ridges of the crater rims, search the mountain ranges, and seek out those deeply cratered areas that create the interesting patterns on the surface.

Do you see a man or a rabbit on the moon?

When Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned from the lunar surface bringing samples of rock and dust, they reported the lunar surface to be somewhat of a flour-y texture smelling a bit like spent gunpowder. Don’t believe they went? Humph. Go online to the images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft and see tracks of the moon-buggy and the lander left behind.

I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year and DO let some stars get in your eyes.

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Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

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Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

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Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

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Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>