Fernbank Science Center Planetarium, October 3 2008

2008 October 3, Fernbank Planetarium
Fernbank Science Center Planetarium
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Oct 2008

Man, Machine and Shadow, The Planetarium
Man, Machine and Shadow, The Planetarium
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This evening we saw, at Fernbank, Marsquest. H.o.p. loved it. Marty enjoyed it. I sat and wondered what in the hell we’re doing going to Mars, but I still rather enjoyed the show as well, though I’ve got to say that I enjoyed the show as well just because I love sitting in a planetarium.

Amending that, it was an informative show but I found the concluding ode to future Martians a bit much.

Afterward we took a peak through the telescope at Jupiter.


Man in the Meteorite
Man in the Meteorite, Fernbank Science Center, 2007
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H.o.p. and I spent the past several days reviewing our knowledge on comets in preparation for a planned Friday night excursion to the Fernbank Science Center observatory to see Comet Holmes. As it turned out, they were having troubles with the telescope and the observatory, which normally opens at 8:00, didn’t open until 9:30. There were still problems and what we saw resembled nothing like this. Instead there was a vague haze with very little brightness and no observable nucleus. But then a member of the astronomy club here once told me that it was better to observe very distant objects on the observatory’s high powered scope, than relatively near ones, so that may have been a factor. Usually there are individuals out with at least one–often two–small telescopes, but there were none tonight.

Never-the-less, the outing was enjoyable. The science center was filled with people eager to see Holmes. The desk attendants were harried and at least once every couple of minutes were answering a newcomer’s inquiry of “Why is the observatory not open?” and repeatedly informing those already waiting that no they didn’t know yet whether it would open or not but perhaps.

I took some photos in the science center, tonight capturing the Man in the Meteorite.

Window on Antares

Fernbank Observatory, 2007 Aug 16
Fernbank Observatory, 2007 Aug 16
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At left is the astronomer who gave the presentation at the planetarium and then was the sky guide at the observatory.

H.o.p. loves the atmosphere. So do I. Perhaps because astronomers are going to like what they’re doing (or they seem to), and perhaps because the people who drop by the observatory are, for the most part, going to be there because of a genuine fascination. And so there is a friendly unspoken sense of, “Oh, you’re here, as well, to see…”

The night was hazy so only a few visitors came through. Which makes the experience more intimate. Clouds kept drifting and obscuring. The astronomer did his best to find things to look at. Among them, Jupiter, Arcturus, Antares.

We don’t provide interesting conversation or questions for the astronomer. Our interest is poetic. Though we’re ready to try to absorb any technical information, any intelligence the astronomer has to share, and enjoy it all, we’re laymen who nod our heads, yes, yes.

A brother-in-law of a great grandfather of mine (the one with the glass eye) was interested in astronomy and wrote some articles, including one on the astronomy of Shakespeare that appeared in an issue of “Science” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He wanted to be an astronomer but illness got in the way of that dream.

“Isn’t it a pretty color?” the astronomer said of Antares. “Like a garnet color?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful,” I agreed. And it was. A garnet with blazes of orange.

The astronomer leads and we follow. We’re just there for the ride.

Plus we want H.o.p. to grow up with an eye on the sky. To know that it’s out there beyond the city’s light pollution. And, as I said, he likes it. He likes the atmosphere. He likes climbing up and looking through the telescope at the planets and stars. He likes it that an astronomer is his guide. He likes being able to answer the occasional question. When we were watching the show in the planetarium the astronomer asked who the strong man in the sky would be, whose name began with an H, H.o.p. enjoyed being able to call out, “Hercules!”

I wandered around taking shots. At the end, as we were the only ones left, the astronomer asked if I’d like the lights on. All my shots were without flash, even after the lights were turned on. Thus the astronomer’s face is a blur. Post processing, I worked to try to give the image a hint of the mystery I felt surrounding observatories when I saw them on television as a child, or in movies. Plus a touch of a clinical straight-forward shot embedded.

“When I look through the telescope, I feel like I’m flowing up up up up,” H.o.p. says.

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