Friday, September 18, 2009

Goodbye summer. Hello fall.

So I have to admit, fall is a bittersweet time for me, stargazing-wise.

Let’s face it…May, June and July are not super-duper astronomy times. You get maybe two or three hours of “darkness” and the rest is that “in-between” time. Then there’s those biting bugs…oh, they love me! I apply the DEET and I swear I can hear the mosquitoes laughing either from huffing the fumes or just from me being foolish enough to think that will deter the little bloodsuckers!

So fall is coming and, as a result, the nights get longer, the bugs dwindle away and…well, winter is just around the corner. Great…just great!

Of course, turns out there’s another reason to look forward to fall. Researchers into such things have discovered that the equinoxes are the best time to view aurora. And no one knows why. Sure, this is the time of year when the sun stands directly overhead of Earth’s equator at local noon and north and south poles receive equal amounts of day and night.

But auroras are the result of the interplay between the sun’s outflow of charged particles and our own magnetic field. Is it something to do with the orientation of our own magnetic field? Or something else? No one is sure.

In the meantime, the nights are getting oh so much cooler! In fact, I was out the other night and I was playing with the idea of digging our a parka and gloves. Gloves!! Not to mention the fact that the last few years have not exactly given us great or clear weather. So what does this year have in store?

If the weather cooperates, we’ve got some great constellations. W-shaped Cassiopeia, Andromeda and the naked eye behemoth 2.5 million light years away, Aquarius and it’s plethora of deep sky wonders…there’s certainly lots to see. This year, we also have Jupiter making a great appearance. And Mars is just around the corner, now rising in Gemini shortly after midnight.

So time to pull out the woolies and hope that the weather cooperates. Failing that, there’s always…um…well, there’s always the fall TV line-up. Yeah, here’s hoping for really good weather!

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