-->
Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

The Golden State Star Party

| 1 Comment
Photo of Milky Way by Kenneth Hess
Photo: Kenneth Hess, 2009. Specs: Nikon D2x, 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, 60 second unguided exposure at ISO 1600.

I recently spent a new moon weekend with 350 amateur astronomers camped in a field near Adin, California, one of the darkest spots in the continental United States. Light pollution from outdoor lighting spoils the view from urban areas, and most of us are lucky to see anything but the brightest stars from where we live. I was expecting something special from this location in rural, Northern California, and I was not disappointed.

As darkness fell, our home galaxy, the Milky Way, arched across the sky in a river of more than 100 billion stars extending 100,000 light years in diameter and culminating at the central bulge in the constellation Sagittarius. Silently gazing at the expanse of rifts, nebula, and endless points of light was almost a religious experience. One of the reasons that I enjoy astronomy is the intellectual stimulation of imagining the vast distances, incredible size, and countless number of the objects in our universe. Nonetheless, it's difficult to imagine a number like 100 billion stars. But here in this peaceful field illuminated by the Milky Way itself, I for the first time could imagine that there really were that many stars in our galaxy.

From such a dark location I was able to see stars more than two magnitudes or about ten times dimmer than from an urban setting, and consequently, there were about ten times as many stars visible to the naked eye. While the Milky Way was spectacular, my primary objective for the trip was to take images of neighboring galaxies. Ultimately, I selected a pair of galaxies that are approximately 12 million light years away, and I'll write about the process of taking the pictures and the galaxies themselves in a future blog entry.

Star parties are held in all areas of the country. Even in urban areas there are many objects such as the planets that are easily visible. And, this year is particularly appropriate for a star party because 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies

Science Buddies has a number of Science Fair Project Ideas that relate to this area of astronomy:

1 Comment

I REALLLLLLLLLLY LIKE STARS

Science Buddies Science Activities

Science Buddies and Autodesk for Student STEM Exploration


thumbnail
Thanks to Aerojet Rocketdyne, the INFINITY Science Center, and Science Buddies, teachers in Mississippi got a booster course in rocket science—and paper airplane folding.

thumbnail
School and family science weekly spotlight: use dough to explore the relationship between dimensions of an object and volume.

thumbnail
In movies like Dolphin Tale, you don't have to look far to find the engineering design process in action. With the steps of the engineering process being acted out as the story unfolds, students see that success often involves a great deal of trial, error, testing, and redesigning.

thumbnail
School and family science weekly spotlight: explore the science of making soup from dried beans.

thumbnail
Book 3 in the Nick and Tesla series offers great gadget-oriented science and engineering fun from the twins as they stay with their eccentric scientist uncle for the summer.

thumbnail
School and family science weekly spotlight: explore the role of fat and temperature on pie crust texture.



Your Science!
What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!



You may print and distribute up to 200 copies of this document annually, at no charge, for personal and classroom educational use. When printing this document, you may NOT modify it in any way. For any other use, please contact Science Buddies.