Monday, November 22, 2010

Dad50 #41 Celestial Event

I'm not much of a star-gazer, but I can appreciate the wonder of a special event. Getting your kids up in the middle of the night to take them outside to see some special celestial event can be a whole lot of fun when they are old enough. And because you don't do it very often, it will lodge in their memory as a big deal. I remember staying up to see Haley's comet in '85-'86. This most famous comet visits us every 76 years, and has made an appearance as a harbinger of doom of both the Norman invasion in 1066, and Davy Crockett's visit to the Alamo (ED: Stop sponging stuff from your kids history essays). My grandfather got to see it twice, a feat I'm going to have to wait till I'm in my 90's to repeat (you can do the math, but put it this way, I've already had my midlife crisis birthday).
Haley's comet       From NASA public photo gallery

E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria (

The Moon  Apollo 13 photograph, NASA
If you put in a bit of time, or keep your eyes and ears open, its pretty easy to find the next event worth staying/getting up for. It doesn't have to be a big one, such as the Hale-Bopp comet of '97, but for the smaller set, can be as simple as a moon rise, a full moon, or a conjunction of stars. My oldest remembers getting up in 2003 and seeing Mars at it's closest point in many years. Last week was the peak of this years Lenoid meteor shower.
Mars, June 11th 2003  Ron Wayman of Tampa, FL.

There are many resources out there such as the links below. I've also found that major occurrences often pop up in the news media on the day of the event. Remember, you don't need high end gear for most events, and can get away with a dark night (NYC would be considered suboptimal), relatively few clouds and some binoculars.

A meteor schedule: 

2007-2015 Astronomy Event schedule:

Browse NASA collection of manned space program press release photos

Dad U
-Wake 'em up

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