Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Star Gazing along the Via Lattea

Recently we hosted some very keen astronomers. Folks that work at the planetarium, Parco Astronomico, INFINI-T0 in Pino Torinese, just above Torino.  As I always like to point out,  we have a lot of interesting people arrive at Bella Baita for a variety of reasons and what they all seem to have in  common is that they are all fascinating with quite a range of unusual lives, livelihoods, hobbies and stories. Makes for varied and lively conversations.  This group was no exception to the rule. They arrived to stay up most of one of the darkest nights of the year, searching and photographing stars, planets and nebula. Hmm, I wonder what the plural for nebula is, nebuli, nebulas?  Anyway, stay up they did, till about 4 am, after they had dismantled the command post and sent many photos directly back to the planetarium whilst they hung out gazing at the dark endless sky above us.  We only stayed till about 1 am and got to see some amazing views of fiery Mars and Saturn with its rings. It really was memorable. They had all the equipment too. I figured they would have a large telescope, and they did, no surprise there, but what I wasn't expecting was all the other gear as well. They had biggg binoculars and several computers that when lined up and hooked up to the bigggg telescope, complete with blinking lights and whirring sounds in the dark, it looked like something straight out of the mother ship Enterprise.
My camera doesn't really take fabulous night photos so you'll just have to take my word for it, but it was an impressive set up. I was waiting to post this as they were going to send me some night photos, but I'm sure they just got busy and haven't gotten to it yet. I thought I would just go ahead and post this. Why you ask?, ok you didn't but I'm going to tell you anyway. It's because all that snow that they were standing on is gone and spring is underway in our yard, although there are still a few snow piles dotted around the yard, but they are on their way out.
Their visit has whetted our appetite to visit the planetarium one of these days when we can get over to the hills above Torino and take in the museum and one of the shows. A five euro entrance fee makes it quite affordable. It will be quite interesting to see exactly where all of those photos went to that night.
In the meantime they told us about the very cool site Stellarium, which is an open source planetarium for your computer. There is a free download here for a variety of computer operating systems where you can put your coordinates in and see the sky right on your computer. You can navigate around something like google earth and they will show you the constellations  and excellent illustrations too. Very worth checking out. Their visit has inspired us eagerly look forward to a visit the Torino planetarium as we enjoy our very own twinkly sky every night here at Bella Baita.
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