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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Learning the Constellations

We made it to the Singapore Science Centre Star gazing night on the night of Good Friday (10 April). The brief talk on constellations highlighted those that were visible this month and the next. Orion is in the middle of our field of view about 9ish at night. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky(belonging to the constellation Big Dog) can also be seen. We were told of the rising of the Southern Cross later at about 10ish and subsequently shown on a simulator how it would look like (more like a kite than a cross).

We had to queue to see Saturn on the big telescope. The ring appeared just to be a line across the planet because this year, Earth and Saturn happened to be on the same plane. We were told that next year, a more distinct ring can be seen because we would be viewing Saturn somewhat "from above". I must admit, Saturn was disappointingly small.

The moon through the smaller free-standing telescopes that were set up looked more impressive in comparison. We were amazed at how fast the moon was moving across the sky; so fast that it kept going out of view on the telescope. Through the telescope, I could actually see the moon creeping!

The overcast sky that night did not allow us to see much more. Even Orion was hidden.

Volunteers at the centre were armed with a green laser pointer to show where the stars were. I made a mental note to try out my red laser pointer I have at home. (I later found out that red ones don't show up well in the sky - read more here) I have seen nature guides use this dandy tool to point at far off points of interest when I go for guided walks and have always wanted to bring it along with me when we go for our nature walks. (But there just seem to be so many things to bring I always forget.:-1

A few nights later as I was enjoying our aquarium in the balcony, I looked up at the sky and saw the distinct kite shape of the Southern Cross! I wasn't sure I identified it correctly so I pulled out our book Stars: A New Way to See Them by Rey (my favourite book on the constellations) to check. True enough, it really was the Southern Cross! I verified by checking the other stars around that constellation. Two other bright stars Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri , belonging to the constellation Centaur, could be seen a little south-east of the Cross. That led me to find more of the stars belonging to Centaur.

I could not contain my excitement any longer. So off I went to dig my boys up from their beds to show them my "discovery"!

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