I'm waiting for BJ to finish putting the girls to bed after a nice, quiet weekend.
We had Grandpa Ben down for dinner on Saturday night, then we went to a nearby observatory and looked at the stars. We got to see Saturn so clearly that we could see its rings. We also saw a binary star pair that are blue and topaz - apparently that's unusual because most of the time two stars that orbit each other are the same color. They call them the Boy Scouts pair at our observatory, because the Scouts have helped build the observatory, and I guess their colors are blue and gold.
Did you know that most of the stars you see are actually binary pairs? Wouldn't it be awesome to have two suns, or dozens of moons like Jupiter? If I could choose one celestial object, though, I'd wish the earth had rings.
One of my all-time favorite animations!
Did you know that almost all of the visible bodies in the night sky are in the Milky Way? You can kind of see Andromeda, if you're out in the country and you've got better eyesight than I have, which is a separate galaxy.
Did you know that there's a black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way? I didn't! How have I lived 35 years, the last 14 of them with a rocket scientist, and NOT known that?
The ISS went over while we were there - that was really cool. It reminded me of our honeymoon - we went to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and it went over. When BJ pointed it out to someone who worked there, that person took off running to tell the rest of the staff. It was before they installed the solar panels, so the ISS was a lot harder to see back then. Very cool.
The Milky Way, a relatively small galaxy, contains 200 billion stars (give or take). There are estimated to be hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. So if each star has 8 planets, how many countless squajillions of planets are there? Do you think anyone might be on any of them, looking toward us, wondering the same things?
I do, but I don't think they're able to get to us, any more than we're able to get to them. In other words, I believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe - there MUST be - but I don't think it's going to bother us any time soon. I'm not worried about UFOs.
We would have stayed much longer, but the girls were really tired. We ought to be on Central Time, but instead we're on Eastern, so it gets dark really late, and it makes it hard to do any astronomy with small kids. But it was well worth it. I learned a lot. And I got to have one of my favorite experiences - looking up into the vastness of space, in the dark and the quiet, and counting stars until I lose track. When you do that, you can feel so small that all of your worries just slip away.
This post is dedicated to Susan at Toddler Planet, who loves science even more than I do.