Can my new hobby survive the weather?

I’m one of those people who read the first few chapters of the Observer’s Book of Astronomy as a child and was immediately hooked…. for a few days at least. The very idea that the sun was 93 million miles away gripped me, and when I began to understand what a light year was and how very, very far away was our nearest star (after the sun), I felt humbled and broadened at the same time. Learning about astronomy made me feel more alive. And very inspired. But as a child, the interest didn’t last, and other passions have come and gone since then.

But I recently renewed my interest in things cosmological after building a cardboard orrery (another story). This time there is plenty to feed my newly re-awakened interest: I have books about astronomy, apps for the iPad, unpolluted countryside skies, and, most importantly, I have a telescope. Will things be different this time?

Last month, armed with star charts and a few quickly memorised constellations, I eagerly awaited the arrival of 2012 DA14, an asteroid due to fly by earth at the spine-tinglingly close distance of about 17,000 miles. I had learned to spot Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, and I’d read all about locking the telescope onto a nearby star and then waiting. I was ready to have a go at spotting this historic asteroid flyby, my first astronomical event. But I was thwarted by the complete cover of clouds we get here in Britain, darn it. So I watched it on NASA TV instead. Hey ho!

At least there was Comet Pan-Starrs coming along in March. Apparently, it has been possible to see it here in the northern hemisphere since last Thursday. It’s now Sunday and the clouds haven’t lifted. There have been evenings with so much fog I couldn’t even see the garden shed, let alone a comet. Ho hum. There are always back episodes of Stargazing LIVE to watch.

My garden shed.
My garden shed.

But I know myself. I need more encouragement than this. Will my desire to be broadened and deepened by contemplation of the universe be squashed once again, defeated by our British weather?

3 thoughts on “Can my new hobby survive the weather?

  1. Will my desire to be broadened and deepened by contemplation of the universe be squashed once again, defeated by our British weather?

    Noooo!!

    Yeah, okay, your weather is not as nice as ours here in SoCal. But the British Isles produced John Flamsteed, Edmund Halley, William and Caroline Herschel (astronomically, if not by birth), Lord Rosse, George Airy, and Patrick Moore. So when the weather gets you down, remember that they all shared your frustration.

    Also, when you get out and the sky is clear and everything works, it will be soooo worth it. I have had pretty good luck with your skies, in that just about every visit there has been one clear night, and your skies are to die for. Seriously. I go to the mountains and the desert for skies as good as you have 20 feet out the kitchen door.

    Pro tip: if you don’t already have some, get a pair of 10×50 binoculars. Other sizes will work, but 10×50 is the sweet spot for light grasp, magnification, and hand-hold-ability. They’ll show you a ton, they’re perfect for nights when the skies are less than perfect or it’s too cold to face setting up the scope or you don’t have time, and they’re good for working out how to get from here to there even when you have the scope out.

    Finally, welcome to amateur astronomy, and to the astro-blogosphere!

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