Exploring the stars through
Every moment of every day, we are surrounded by greatness.
The evidence of
this can be seen by simply
looking up towards the heavens above. The vastness of the sky
is very deceiving, since scientists have said based on their
research that the size of the universe is unimaginable.
However, for centuries, people have been enthralled by the
stars, especially at nighttime when they are most visible.
Groups of stars which form a particular shape, known as
constellations, have been given names, such as the Big Dipper
and the Little Dipper. Scientists have often said that there
are billions of stars in our galaxy alone, which is just one of
the many galaxies in the universe.
A star is a huge, big ball of plasma
that shines brightly. We all know what the sun is, but do we
actually know that it is a star? The sun, as we know, is very
powerful and is the Earth’s source of energy. That alone gives
us an idea as to how powerful a star can be, whether it is in
terms of heat or of light. Yet in spite of all this knowledge,
stars can still be wonderful to look at, even from our vantage
point of millions of miles of distance.
Some people flock to public observatories or astronomy
stations in order to view stars for a small fee. Even if they
seem to be unmoving, some people just can't get enough
satisfaction merely looking at them through powerful
telescopes. Astronomers have studied and are continuing to
study the stars in order to find out more information about
them, since it is somewhat difficult to get quality information
from objects of great distances, although it is possible.
However, you don’t necessarily need powerful
telescopes in order to enjoy the stars, although it would
help by making them look bigger than when viewed with the
naked eye. Stargazing is a very popular activity and is
sometimes required by astronomy professors. By exploring
the stars, whether at home or while lying down on a grassy
bank, there are shapes and images that can form while
Astronomers explore the stars in order to learn about them,
for that is their job and means of livelihood. This research
that astronomers conduct thoroughly and systematically
regarding stars are actually very helpful as pieces of
knowledge for the common man.
Without them, we will have a very limited knowledge
regarding stars and perhaps other heavenly bodies. But
certainly, stars are also in the heavens above for the common
person to enjoy.
Exploring the stars via stargazing or even with a home
astronomy kit at home (usually composed of a less powerful
telescope than that at an observatory) can help you enjoy them
and think about them, without the need for deeper knowledge
that astronomers seek.
In other words, enjoy stargazing and exploring the visible
stars and be relaxed while doing so. It is wonderful to view
them, especially from different angles and times, of which some
groups of stars can come together to form a constellation.
You can actually point out a group or groups and name your
own constellations in order to make your star exploration at
home more enjoyable. You know the regular constellations,
namely, the Big Dipper, Orion, Leo, etc. Perhaps your
imagination can be vivid and you would notice a certain group
of stars that form a recognizable shape and name them.
You can even invite friends, classmates, family members, and
more to make stargazing an even more enjoyable activity.
The reason why exploration of stars and other heavenly
bodies enthralls humans is because of the mystery of outer
space. Up until the present, scientists and astronomers have
been debating about a number of issues, such as whether life
exists on Mars, how the universe came into existence, whether
life can survive on other planets, etc.
Along with this, the typical human is intrigued
by the idea of stars and how they shine brightly at night.
It is also this interest and intrigue that has led people
into telling fortunes based on the position of the stars
Exploration of the stars can be done at home. For the
typical person, it is more enjoyable to do it at home without
thinking too much about them. Enjoy them, for they are
mysterious, but wonderful objects.
About Our Planets
The Rocks Nearest the Sun: When we glimpse the millions of
stars in the night sky, it can be difficult to imagine that
some of them are planets, only thousands of miles away, and
within our solar system. However, with the proper tools, and
with knowledge of the planets, you can see swift Mercury,
mysterious Venus, and even the giant Jupiter from your
backyard. In this first of two series on the planets of our
solar system, you will learn about the planets lying between
the asteroid belt and the sun.
You will also learn about their special properties, and how
you can distinguish them in the often star-crowded night sky.
For your home astronomy activity, all you'll need are the
following.• A good pair of binoculars, preferably with
very high resolution, is valuable when you want to view the
planets in greater detail.
You won't need a telescope if you want to see the nearest
planets, although a good home telescope will show even more
detail and make your observation more interesting.
Star maps are invaluable when you locate the planets, as
their positions are often described in reference to nearby
constellations. You can best view the planets in a dark
place, so you need a dim flashlight to light up your star
Before you begin your planet hunt, there are three things
you must know about our planets. According to a definition set
by international astronomical organizations, a planet must be a
body orbiting around the sun, and with enough mass to be a
sphere due to its own gravitational forces.
A planet, moreover, should clear the neighborhood around its
orbit. There are other bodies within the solar system that are
as large as planets, or were once considered planets, but have
since been disqualified as they didn't meet one or more of the
They won't be discussed in detail in this article. Mercury
is the planet nearest the sun, and completes its revolution
every eighty-eight days. Mercury has no moons, and is a very
light, tiny planet. In fact, Mercury is only about 0.055 of
earth in mass.
Most of Mercury's thin atmosphere is made up of potassium
and sodium, and its rocky surface is full of craters. The
Romans were one of the first to report on the planet, which
they named after their swift messenger of the gods, as the
astronomers observed its fast motion in the sky. Despite
Mercury's brightness, you can see it at twilight as a bright,
star-like dot that doesn't twinkle. After Mercury comes Venus,
a hazy planet long the subject of fiction and mystery.
Like Mercury, Venus has no moons. It is almost the same mass
and size as the earth, so that the two are often referred to as
"sister planets." The atmosphere of Venus, however, is about
ninety-five percent carbon dioxide, and can thus support no
Venus is the brightest heavenly body in the night sky, with
the exception of our moon. It is at its brightest a few hours
before sunrise, and a few hours after sunset, and is thus often
called the morning star or the evening star.
The Earth you now stand on is the third planet from the sun,
and is the only one in our solar system known to support life.
Earth has one satellite, our moon, which affects the tides of
our oceans, and which, over time, has changed our planet's
Earth's atmosphere is about seventy eight percent nitrogen
and twenty percent oxygen, a mixture stabilized millions of
years ago, after the young, volcanic earth settled down and
gave birth to life.
After Earth comes the red, rocky Mars, with its two moons,
Phobos and Deimos. Like Venus, the Martian atmosphere is
primarily made up of carbon dioxide; unlike hazy Venus,
however, Mars appears as a bright red dot in the sky.
At certain times of the year, Mars is the second brightest
object in the night sky, next to the moon and Venus. Mars is
red because of the iron oxide, or rust, on its surface, and
recent studies have shown that it might have been home to water
only a few thousand years ago.
The idea that Mars may have once supported life is
interesting to scientists, and Mars is promptly the planet in
the solar system with the greatest number of orbiting
spacecraft. Beyond Mars is a thick asteroid belt, which
is also home to the dwarf planet Ceres.
Once classified as an asteroid, Ceres is the smallest dwarf
planet of our solar system, and comprises a third of the
asteroid belt's total mass. In very good atmospheric
conditions, you can see Ceres with your naked eye. It will
appear as a tiny white dot in the night sky.
Tracking the planets in your backyard can be a fun activity
for the whole family. Just remember that planets, unlike stars,
don't twinkle, and will usually be very bright. Just keep those
binoculars and star maps handy, and you can have an enjoyable
night of star gazing and planet locating.
For the more interesting planets, however, you will have to
go beyond the asteroid belt, where the massive planets reside.
These planets will be tackled in the next essay in this