By Peter Becker
The next clear, cold night- those adjectives often go together- enjoy the view from your home observatory. You may not live under a traditional rotating dome, and you might not even have a telescope, but if you have a window facing the open sky, you have an observatory.
While you certainly will have the best view of the Universe outside with nothing between you and the stars but the atmosphere, don't overlook the wonder from inside.
A big disadvantage of course is that you probably don't have windows where you want them, or there are trees or streetlights right in front of the glass.
Some of my favorite memories of the night sky at least started through the window pane.
Usually the view prompted me to don a coat and take a step outside.
I recall seeing a lunar eclipse right out the bedroom window, many years ago. The Moon appeared brick red, and the stars were in abundance. I have witnessed meteors glowing as they streak across the heavens between the window frame. Constellations have paraded past my dining room window. Not all would fit the space the window took up, but with my nose practically on the glass, it is amazing how much of the Cosmos is present before me.
All of this, from the warmth and comfort of home!
Other disadvantages: 1. You need the room lights to stay off, so the family needs to agree or be sleeping! 2. Telescopes just won't work at all well through the glass. Details on the Moon, for instance, will distort, and stars will be anything but points of light. 3. Opening the window lets the heat escape; the resulting turbulent air also distorts your telescopic view.
Your window view is obviously restricted, but there can be something romantic about framing the Milky Way or the Big Dipper in the cross pieces of your window, and detect far-off twinkling stars between the tree limbs.
If your window is fairly clean and the glass not noticeably wavy (as you see in old glass panes), you can have surprisingly good views through binoculars.
The main thing is you are looking. It is wonderful to brave the cold by dressing up like Nanook of the North, and great if you have a telescope, but anyone with eyes to see and a window can enjoy the stars. The point here is to encourage all readers to appreciate the heavens above. Not everyone can afford a telescope right now (though good starter telescopes at modest prices are available).
Going outside at night may be daunting for other reasons- concern over crime or wild animals, or simply your health. You also better be sure you have a house key if you venture outside in the middle of the night to stargaze!!! Most all of us, however, can look out a window and look up at the wonders above.
Last quarter Moon is on Dec. 6.
Send your notes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile get out the window cleaner and...
Keep looking up!
The Universe in my window
Nov 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM Nov 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM