Saturday, October 1, 2011

staring at the stars

Last night we went to the observatory on campus. It was hard to find a place to park, with all the bus-sized campers taking up spots in all their pre-tailgate-party glory. When we finally found a spot and began to walk toward the observatory, it was dark and hard to find the way. I wondered why there weren't more lights, or at least lit-up signs to guide us to the observatory. Maybe they were closed. Maybe they didn't want anyone to find them.

When we finally stumbled into what looked like a back yard with a fence around it, people were standing around all over the place, lined up to look in telescopes. I was expecting a huge telescope in a room where the ceiling slid open, and you could see inside a nebula and other cool things like that.

But then a professor (I assume?) started telling us about space, and had a green laser pointer that seemed to touch the stars as he talked about them. And he let our kids hold a meteorite--that's what it's called when it's on Earth. We learned that when it's falling through the atmosphere, it's a meteor. When it's in space, it's a meteoroid.

Another professor started telling us about the sun, and how someday it will burn itself out and become a spinning white chunk of carbon with a doughnut cloud around it (or something like that, which I didn't understand). The professor said he wished he could be around in the however many thousands of years it will be when that happens. I decided I'm glad I won't be around for that.

As we wandered back down the hill, I realized that was why it was so dark--so it wouldn't interfere with the star-gazing.

It makes you look at the stars a little differently when you learn more about them! The kids loved it, especially when they got to hold a meteorite. They said it was heavy, and surprisingly warm.

I don't think they believed me when I said it was probably warm because the professor had been holding it in his hand for a while :)

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