While we have had some clear night skies throughout this winter season it certainly has not been the clear, crisp conditions that are usual for telescopic viewing. In order to get good sharp views of dim deep sky objects astronomers look at a variety of factors.
- Obviously we want the skies to be FREE OF CLOUDS.
- Not as obvious is that we want the atmosphere to be free of dust, smoke, or any tiny particles that cause TRANSPARENCY to be diminished. Deep sky objects are dim so can easily be blocked by atmospheric interference.
- SEEING is the condition of the 300 or so kilometers of air that go from our feet up to the International Space Station. When we look up at the stars, galaxies, nebula and star clusters, we are looking through an ocean of air from the very bottom. If that ocean of air is unsteady and in motion we will be hampered in our getting sharp views of brighter objects such as the moon or the planets as they will be bouncing, blurring their image much like looking at a penny in the bottom of a swimming pool. If the water is calm the penny’s details are fairly easy to see. If the water is disturbed, the details will be very hard to see due to the turbulence of the water between us and the penny.
Winter skies usually promise all three of these conditions but lately, our skies have had more than our fair share of clouds. The sky is breathtakingly beautiful so when it is clear, take a few minutes to go outside, look up and allow yourself to be amazed.
If you ever want to get a closer look at the moon, planets, star clusters and nebula, please check out the bookings page of our website or call Rod DeVries at 403-458-0456.