Chicago Astronomer Al makes the NWH... Oct 21, 2006 17:38:11 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Oct 21, 2006 17:38:11 GMT -6
A clear vision for galaxy-gazing
On a clear night, Al Degutis and David Drizner can see forever.
The Milky Way. The rings of Saturn. Comets and meteor showers. Other galaxies. Satellites. Mars and vast vapor clouds of nebulae. Jupiter. Star clusters.
In November 2004, Degutis saw the northern lights.
“They looked like ribbons of clouds dancing in the air,” Degutis said.
And all this is visible from their backyard decks on the outer edge of Woodstock, well away from the light pollution of the city.
They are stargazers, as well as neighbors, astronomy hobbyists pursuing an interest since childhood who now enjoy a good telescope and a clear, dark night.
Degutis started an informal group last fall for like-minded folk called McHenry County Stargazers. So far, about six people meet once a month on a Saturday night near the new moon for the best, darkest sky.
But both Degutis and Drizner will stay up all night on their own if there is a good, clear night for gazing. Degutis explained that when his eyes adjust to total darkness, he can see more things in the sky.
“Basically, you get your cat eyes – figuratively,” Degutis said. “In three minutes, you see dozens of stars. After 30 minutes, hundreds more. In three hours, you can see the faintest stars with the naked eye.”
Before they moved to McHenry County, Degutis, 41, and Drizner, 47, used to drive hours to find some good dark sky for stargazing.
Their desire to see the night sky unimpeded by parking lot lights, billboards and streetlights led both to consider moving to Hidden Lake Estates, about 8 miles outside of Woodstock. Degutis moved from Berwyn and Drizner from Chicago’s North Side.
“Those pinkish sodium vapor lights — they really take away the darkness in the sky and limit how many stars you can see,” Degutis said. “I enjoy the meteor showers. You’re seeing things the size of a grain of sand lighting up the sky as bright as the moon. But you have to have a nice, dark sky to see it. A bright meteor is barely noticeable in Chicago.”
Astronomy aside, lights that aim up to the sky is waste, the men say. Outdoor lights should all be shielded and aimed down — not to serve their needs, but because it is wasting electricity, they said.
If cities, corporations and individuals would follow outdoor illumination guidelines suggested by the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization dedicated to curbing light pollution, more people would be able to appreciate the beauty of a dark night sky, he said.
“Whether you’re active with a telescope or you’re an average person taking the dog for a walk at night, you should be able to look up and see a million stars,” Drizner said.
Both men said gazing at stars connects them with ancient times, as starlight takes millions of years to reach Earth.
“Whenever people from the city go to the country for vacation and you ask what they remember, almost everybody says, ‘How many stars we could see. It was like we were right there,’” Drizner said. “There must be some connection.”
I had the great opportunity and pleasure to observe the skies from Al's backyard, and indeed, the Milky Way sprawls overhead with great views. Had a great time.
An excellent article on Al's astronomical activites. And a suberb shot of Andromeda. Got to share these pics with us Al!
Way to go!...