The universe is a giant amusement park, and you’re not welcome to climb aboard the pretty galactic Ferris wheel. Why? Because you must be THIS tall!
Or so it seems.
Many people sacrificed their piggy banks to the amateur astronomy gods, but all they got in return was some lousy glass. True story. Telescopes, eye pieces, mounts, filters—these toys can be…ummm…expensive. And that means the admittance price must be literally sky high if you want to enjoy the amusement park above your head.
Come on! If you think that’s true, then you haven’t been paying attention! Listen.
We can go ahead and sneak right in. Yup. No big deal. I’ll cut a hole in the fence, okay? You’re gonna just slide through when no one is looking. Got it?
No Money Astronomy:
Sneaking Into The Real Universal Amusement Park
See? That wasn’t so bad! Now you have enough money to buy some fries, or a tasty root-beer float. You can thank me later. The Real Universal Amusement Park is known for Neptune’s Cosmic Fun House, and it looks there isn’t a line. Come on. What do you say?
Wanna follow me into Neptune’s Cosmic Fun House? You’ll make it out alive (I think).
Satellites. Yup. You heard of ’em, but have you seen ’em? Not many people know that it’s possible to see a satellite with their very own eyes, but it’s true—satellite’s can easily be observed during sunset. Satellites are equipped with solar panels and a variety of other really fancy hardware which reflects sunlight. These objects may look like ‘moving stars’, but they typically travel slower than an airplane, and don’t have any blinking lights.
Imagine if you witnessed a dim star slowly trekking across the night sky. Seeing a migrating star can, indeed, be a confusing experience—especially if you don’t know what the hell you’re looking at. But you’re not going to be one of those people. Don’t worry.
It costs exactly 0 dollars to go satellite hunting. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll see one of them top-secret spy satellites!
Do you see that odd streak toward the top right hand corner? That’s a satellite trail.
…And here’s another.
Satellites are easy to observe, and no special gear is required. You don’t have to part ways with a single penny. Which means…you can afford to play one of the not so awesome carny games! Are you skilled at popping balloons with darts? Yeah…neither am I. Fuck. Let’s just skip the games.
Satellite Observing Tips
- Wait until dusk
- Look toward the setting the Sun (Not directly at the Sun! Use common sense. Please)
- Pay attention!
- Look for ‘moving stars’
- Airplanes are distinguished by colored lights. Satellites have no color
- Satellites tend to move slower than planes
- Iridium flares can cause a satellite to substantial increase in brightness. Watch out!
Satellites can be observed anytime throughout the night, but you’re most likely to notice a satellite during sunset.
2. Demonic Blinking Star
Shhh..Okay. Did you hear the rumor? A demonic blinking star supposedly exists, but we need to visit the Dark Matter Freak Show . I’m sure you heard the stories, but have you seen the demon with your very own eyes? Don’t bother cracking open your wallet, okay? We can sneak a peek at this freak.
Algol ‘The Demon Star’ is a strange stellar thing located in the constellation Perseus.
You read that correctly.
The mythical badass who beheaded Medusa is immortalized in the night sky, and this demigod shows off his kill by forever gripping the gorgon’s snaky head within his stellar hands. Medusa’s gaze turned warriors to stone if they looked her in the eyes…and guess what? That’s exactly what we’re gonna do!
Algol just so happens to shine near Medusa’s eyes, and if you look into her gaze, then you might see something that will make you question the very existence of reality.
Medusa may blink (if she likes you). Algol’s apparent brightness is known to become quite dim…perhaps completely vanishing! You can see the star shimmer as if it were fighting to stay awake. This strange and predictable behavior puzzled people for all time, and recent investigations suggests Algol is actually a double-star system. The blinking is caused by a star eclipsing Algol’s light, which can be seen from our perspective here on planet Earth.
Let that sink in for a moment.
You can see the dynamics of a eclipsing binary star system with your very own eyes.
Algol Observing Tips
- Perseus is best observed by northern individuals, and can’t be seen by those living south of the equator.
- Wait until autumn or winter! Perseus (and Cassiopeia) will be placed well above the horizon most of the night.
- Use Cassiopeia as your guide. Cassiopeia is more distinctive than Perseus, so start there if you have trouble.
- Study free online maps, or visit the library and borrow something called a ‘book’. Or use a phone app. Your choice.
- Algol is the second brightest star in Perseus (β Persei).
- Be patient! Algol’s light won’t diminish on the spot. The entire cycle lasts about 2.87 days, but if you catch the event as it starts, then you’ll notice an unusual shimmer. Mid-eclipse lasts about two hours, and then Algol begins to brighten.
- Click here and use this calculator to find out when the next eclipse will occur. Plug-in your target date. Easy. Simple. Done.
Your pockets are jingling! Look at all that saved change! We spied on spy satellites and gawked a true stellar freak, and we didn’t even spend a single rupee! Amateur astronomy is an expensive hobby, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our cute piggy banks. The Real Universal Amusement Park is open every night of the year—learn to enjoy the view.