Friday, October 10, 2014

Hanging Out with Stars

Several months ago we learned about the Dartmouth observatory and how they open it up to the public on Friday nights. We tried to experience this once but the weather was cloudy and we learned they don't open on those nights. Bummer. We thought we'd try it again. We chose a clear night and headed over, but arrived a little early so we passed the time throwing the frisbee on the green in the dark. It was a lot of fun except that it was really hard to see the thing. Funny how that works. Eventually we headed over and sure enough, they were open, though the place was fairly nondescript and not that easy to find. Plus, it's really dark up there so walking is a chore. They don't make it a priority to make it obvious to the public.

There is an observatory building that actually looks like an observatory, but it turns out it's old and obsolete so they don't use it. About 100 feet away is the actual functioning observatory, which was basically a room whose roof opens up. Inside is a guy with a big telescope that is hooked up to a gps system. Now don't get me wrong, the telescope was nice, but it was comparable to something an astronomy enthusiast would have at home, costing several thousand dollars, but not much more. I have to say, I was a little disappointed by this since Dartmouth is not only an institution of higher learning, but a venerable one. Clearly star-gazing is not high on their priority list.

Either way, the guy running the show was a Ph.D. candidate in cosmology, and he was nice and answered all our questions. We looked at Saturn, which to me appeared as a dot in the sky, though A said she could see the rings. He showed us some star clusters which I thought was pretty cool, but all in all, there wasn't a whole lot to see. He even mentioned it was not the best time of year to see things. Apparently winter is when it's all happening.

We were distracter, or rather A was distracted, by the big street party that was going down on the campus, so our time was short. All in all it was interesting but I have to confess that it wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. That's what happens when you set your expectations too high.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to (a)artwork for the pic.

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