Stargazing

While others were rushing about to get the best deals they can possibly find, I was busy looking at the stars. We had guests over until really late at night–as in, until literally 3AM–which didn’t bug me since because of Thanksgiving break, I stay up until when I would wake up to go to school.

Oh, it really was a “black” Friday. I do not remember seeing the Orlando sky as dark as it was. While 95% of me wants to go to MIT, there’s a 5% of me that wants to go to Berkeley simply because it has the best cosmology/astronomy program of anywhere in the United States. That and the light pollution in the Boston area would make all but the brightest (possibly only the magnitude ≤1 stars) stars almost impossible to see. Berkeley is my second choice of prestigious college, but MIT’s been my dream since I was 2…

Anyways, I went off-topic. The stars… they were… I’ve never seen the sky so clear in Florida. Of course this never beats the sky in Fiji  (Plantation Islands) when I was 9, where the Milky Way sprawled across the sky like bluish-green watercolors mottled with white and blue, shining as bright as the full moon, if not even brighter. Oh, had I known that the Andromeda galaxy was visible to the naked eye, I’d have looked for it. There was an occasional meteor that streaked across the sky. Oh I wish I knew photography back then. I’d have took, pardon the pun, the most stellar photograph I’ve ever taken! Oh, just thinking about it, I can hear Space Core screaming his famous line, zipping across the sky.

Black Friday didn’t cross my mind even once until much later. I’d gone outside to wish a different set of guests goodbye with the other set of guests around 1AM, and saw just how beautiful the sky was. I spent some time with her outside, powerful green laser pointer in hand, with my astronomy app pulled up (since I’d finally be able to use it to find the stuff that’s not usually visible).

She knew what Orion was, but I named the stars. Orion was my first constellation. I never cared for the Big Dipper, but I’ve known about Orion for longer than I can remember. Both math and astronomy are two subjects that I think that I’ve always loved. I think my mom was the one that pointed out Orion (she only knows Orion and the Big Dipper) to me when I was really young. I used to call the Orion Nebula the “Spider Bite Nebula.” Little did I know that it also goes by the name Tarantula Nebula!

Some random Orion facts:

Not the reason why it has always been my favorite constellation. Betelgeuse (the reddish star) and Bellatrix (right across from Betelgeuse) are supposed to be the hunter’s shoulders, and the two other stars, Rigel (under Bellatrix) and Saiph (across from Rigel and under Betelgeuse) represent his feet. The three stars in the middle (Mintaka being on the side with Betelgeuse, Alnilam being the center star, and Alnitak being on the side with Rigel, the side stars really being their own star systems rather than individual stars). He has his sword and shield, but most people regard these stars as the main body of Orion (as it is). Orion also has a clearly visible penis*… I mean, sword, (that hangs right under his belt, which is the Orion Nebula (the closest stellar nursery to us at about 1.5k light years away).

*http://xkcd.com/1020/ I actually didn’t notice it until I saw this. What has been seen cannot be unseen. At least he is his own Rule 34. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing.

I hope Betelgeuse goes nova within my lifetime. While this might cause severe shoulder ache to Orion, the remnants will be visible even during the day!

I even saw a fireball meteor, which was highly surprising because at the time, I was casually observing the sky with my guest. It must have been around 2:30ish. I reported it to the AMS (which I just found out I should do about half an hour back–it is now about 7:30AM), although with accidentally wrong timing since I forgot the guests left at 3 and not 2, with the following parameters:

OBSERVER
Name Here is where I put my real name on that site but won’t on here because random internet people that are more likely to be bad people than on the AMS meteor site might find my name. I’m quite like the Doctor. I simply go by Math or Fractal. No one on the internet (heck, hardly anyone in real life) knows my real name, and I’d like to keep it that way.
Experience (1-5) 4
Comments I usually never get the chance to watch meteor showers, and when I do, I never really see any. The fact I saw this when there wasn’t even one… I’ve only seen two in my entire life, both of them fireballs. I do not remember when I saw the last one. In fact, I only found out now that fireballs are something of this significance! I am thankful for this meteor, I guess (Thanksgiving). The time interval is nonspecific. It must have happened between 1:30AM and 1:45AM, though. I also barely had just enough time to see it, since I’d just turned my head (I was looking at Orion) and barely saw it. It might have left a trail, but I’m not sure. My eyes didn’t focus in time to see it fizzle out. It was very slightly angled, looking as if it was going to hit downtown. I remarked to the guest I was with about how rare fireballs were. Let’s see. It took up about 30 degrees of the sky. It started out really bright, and stayed about five or six times brighter than Venus for about a second, before fading. Ah, if only I could watch more meteor showers…
LOCATION
Address Orlando, FL
Geo Loc. 28.41° | -81.51° [Rounded so you don’t find my exact home address; the house it falls on is not my own address]
Altitude 30.705 meters
TIME
Local Date & Time 2014-11-28 01:45:00 EST
UTC Date & Time 2014-11-28 06:45:00 UTC
Duration 1.50 sec.
DIRECTION
Direction RightToLeft
Facing (bearing) 68°
First seen (bearing) 117°
First Altitude 61°
Last seen (bearing) 77°
Last Altitude 51°
BRIGHTNESS & COLOR
Stellar Magnitude -13.00
Color Orange-ish Yellow
PERSISTENT TRAIN
Observation UNKNOWN
Duration 0.00 sec.
Length 0.00°
Notes
TERMINAL FLASH
Terminal Flash UNKNOWN
Description
FRAGMENTATION
Fragmentation NO
Description
SOUND
Concurrent Sounds NO
Description
Delayed Sound(s) NO
Description

But oh, after the guests left, I sort of stayed out there for about an entire hour, despite the fact that it was in the mid to upper 40s outside (and anything below 70 degrees is “freezing” to me), I just put on my sweatshirt (an MIT sweatshirt, that too–oh I just want to go there more than anything… it’s been on my mind 24/7) and laid out there with my astronomy app and binoculars. I realized that this one dot in the sky was actually Jupiter–I never consciously knew it was Jupiter. I’d thought it was either a geostationary satellite (which would appear to change position relative to certain constellations as they would appear in different portions of the sky relative to the horizon and time throughout the year) or Mars (which didn’t make much sense to me, since it didn’t have the reddish hue or tint that Mars, which I knew the look of, has). Initially looking at the astronomy app, I thought I was looking at Regulus, but another look confirmed that it was actually Jupiter.

I looked at it through my binoculars (oh how I wish I had a telescope). I think I actually saw Ganymede and the cloud of other moons, as well as Jupiter’s “phase” (which was really awesome). It looked like slightly less than a half moon, but much fatter than a crescent. The reverse of a gibbous phase. Oh how breathtaking that smudge was… I really wish I was in a better place with better equipment to stargaze. If I was immediately given that opportunity, on look at the sky and I’d have dropped down to my knees and cried, because I know how beautiful it will be. Space is wonderful.

I didn’t care that I was nearing frostbite in my fingers. I didn’t care how cold it was, and how uncomfortable the ground was. I’ve never seen the sky this clear and this beautiful before, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to stargaze–something I haven’t truly done in years (I used to stargaze a helluva lot in elementary school, particularly in 4th grade when I lived in Australia for that year) because the sky isn’t usually fit for doing so. In fact, I dragged my mom outside (who was still awake) to point out the various stars and nebuale.

On a random note… I was watching a cosmology documentary the other day and I was thinking about the planets that don’t seem to orbit any star and just seem to be out there in space. A random thought that popped into my head. Are we sure that these are true nomadic planets and not brown/black dwarfs? How are we sure that these aren’t but the corpses of stars that didn’t nova and instead just fizzled out and have long been dead?

This was the best Thanskgiving ever. I’m thankful for space–after all, without it, I wouldn’t be here. I’m thankful for comets for bringing water to earth and potentially the amino acids that started life. I’m thankful for the Sun for warming Earth and driving its many cycles, as well as protecting us from cosmic background radiation (I love how it sounds so fictional, but it’s oh so real… it IS indeed true that truth is often stranger than fiction). I’m thankful for the star that died to give birth to the Sun… it not only made the Sun, but also the elements used to make me, you, and everything around us–heck, everything within about an entire light year around us within the Oort cloud… I’m thankful for the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It might be a voracious star eater that noms up absolutely everything that dares cross its event horizon, but it’s the reason our galaxy exists in the first place.

On another random note, why do we think that the stars were formed first and black holes then formed the galaxies? Wouldn’t that mean there should be far more sporadic stars throughout the cosmos not part of any galaxy? Sort of like how if a small whirlpool suddenly opened up at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, boats really far away would pretty much be unaffected, even if the whirlpool was left to drain for a very long time? Wouldn’t it make more sense that a few giant stars with the extreme abundance of gas in the early universe formed initially that lived extremely fast and died extremely young, and leaving behind supermassive black holes when exploding, which then sucked up much of the gas to orbit around it, eating most of it, becoming even more massive, leaving behind much less dust and gas to form supermassive stars, allowing smaller stars to form while the dust and gas is in orbit…

Ah, it’s getting late… to the point where it’s getting early. It’s about 8:15. The Sun is fully up, so I must sleep. I hate the daytime (hey, I like astronomy; it’s only natural that I’m a night owl haha), so it’s off to bed with I.

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Stargazing

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