Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stars in Our Eyes

Our son had told us about the astronomy ap he had on his phone. This year, I added one to my phone, called Night Sky and we are having so much fun with it. It uses your phone's GPS and compass. With these tools, the program shows you on the screen the planets and constellations in the sky above your head. We take it when we walk around the block in the evening. It shows on the screen the horizon and as I move the  phone, the patterns of the "stars" appear with many, but not all, names.  It is the easiest we have ever been able to identify what we were looking at, because it customizes to what is  over OUR heads. 

In one walk, we were able to find Venus, Uranus, Jupiter and Neptune. The next morning, we could find Saturn, Mars and Pluto. Mercury was the  only planet, or former planet (Pluto), that we missed. Not a bad day's work!

So the newest ap is called Sputnik! and it works similarly to predict and identify satellites and the Space Station as they pass over  us. There is a moment when the sun reflects off of them increasing their magnitude, which is the brightness.  This ap reported that Iridium 95 would be passing over at 6:28:58AM today and that the magnitude would be an amazing -5.7, which is VERY bright. We decided to give it a shot. B is always up then anyway and I am usually up. It was very cloudy last night but it was clear enough this morning to drive up to the highway so that we could actually get a view south, as our trees block a lot of sky. We parked and got out in a church driveway and looked south at approximately 23 degrees above the horizon, as instructed by the ap. There was a countdown on the ap which was completed by a series of beeps that told us to "pay attention now." There was also a screen that showed Saturn and Spica and other "stars" in relation to the track of the satellite. We saw it! It was pretty quick and I am not sure we could locate one of much less magnitude, but it was worth the effort.

Disclaimer: the picture above was found online without a copy write.

No comments: