Friday, January 27, 2006

Star Notes or Highlights of the High Lights

The following posts are from my stint as the “Star Notes” columnist for the New Haven Register for a couple of years. I took a new departure, emphasizing naked-eye observing in an urban setting. This meant not only telling folks what's up there, but how to find it and why it's interesting.

Paradoxically enough, the light pollution we experience in an urban environment might actually be an aid to beginning to learn your way about the night sky. That is because only the brightest stars (and the planets and moon) will be visible, which form very recognizable patterns. Once you learn these, you can find everything else. I call these constant and readily recognizable denizens of the night sky “skymarks” – analogously to “landmarks.” (Any resemblance to my name is purely intentional.)

If you want to have this kind of information for every day of the year, two recommended sources are Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights (Prentice-Hall) and a subscription to the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar (Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824). Those who wish to utilize telescopes are encouraged to take advantage of your local amateur society; in my area there are the excellent resources, both telescopic and human, of the Astronomical Society of New Haven. For extensive treatment of all things astronomical, check out the monthly periodicals Astronomy and Sky and Telescope. Finally, the best way to come to know the night sky is to learn the constellations, and the best possible introduction to the constellations is The Stars by H.A. Rey (yes, the Curious George creator!), published by Houghton Mifflin.

For a sample of my other writings on astronomy, click here.

I would like to thank Health and Science Editor Abram Katz at the New Haven Register for having given me my "start" as a columnist.

Clear skies! – Joel Marks

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