I’ve been fascinated and drawn to the stars and the moon for as long as I can remember. As a child living in Australia, I remember lying in the grass gazing up at the Southern Cross, then at 22 in 1986 sitting on a beach with a friend at 2 in the morning, peering at Haley’s Comet as it unceremoniously made it’s way across the night sky.
When I moved to Ireland and my kids came along, I tried for the most part to draw them into my love of all things spacey, when Comet Hale-Bopp made its way past us in 1997, I sat outside the back with my four babies ranging in age from 7 years to 3 months, pointing up at the sky. Why, because Hale-Bopp won’t be back for 2500ish years and I wanted them to be part of it.
My kids Christmas presents over the years, have often included telescopes of various and dubious quality, and often the question was asked, ‘Where’s your Mum’, the reply being a sulky ‘She’s outside playing with MY Christmas present’.
So I got my own telescope 2 years ago, do I know how to use it, um sort of, ok not really, but I’m learning, really slowly. I recently came across a wonderful open source planetarium software called Stellarium. And like my telescope, I’m slowly making my way round Stellarium.
Actually I’ve really only worked out how to turn it off, but believe me when I say, that was quite an achievement. After looking around for some time, I decided it was time to walk away, so where’s the off switch, I started panicking and peppering the keyboard with frantic finger presses, only to find myself in the forum. Excellent I thought this should help, because I was down to my last two options, 1. pull the plug and let the battery drain till it turned itself off, or, 2. throw the laptop across the room in the hopes that violence would frighten it into turning itself off.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t a thread for, ‘HELP, how do you turn this bloody programme off.’ So back to square one, but the story ends well, I persevered. I swore at the computer, threatened it, walked away, came back and eventually found CTRL Q, well will you look at that, isn’t that clever.
Lunarcy 1, Computer 0.
And absolutely no physical violence required.
So now you get an idea of what sort of astronomer and technical wizard I am, if we ever find ourselves facing a possible Armageddon, with a catastrophic asteroid/comet hurtling our way. Don’t ring me, I probably won’t be much help, and most likely just get in the way. But the way I see it, I have a passion and like so many things in life, isn’t that a great place to start.
See I’m a surprise me kind of girl, and a wing and a prayer kind of girl, not really a read the instructions kind of girl, so I’m just happy my telescope hasn’t fallen over and smashed to bits.
So what’s the highlight of my fledgling astronomy career, seeing Jupiter and four of it’s moons through my telescope for the first time. So how did I do it? Beggared if I know, purely accidental, I assure you. But stunning all the same.
So if you’re like me, are fascinated with the heavens above us, call yourself an amateur astronomer and haven’t a clue what you’re doing, come along with me and we’ll get lost in space together. Thank you Irwin Allen!