July 18, 2014 in Features

For starting stargazers, no equipment required

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For those just starting to look, the naked eye or a pair of binoculars offer the best way to view the stars and planets at night, said Dan Bakken, an astronomer who teaches at Spokane Falls Community College.

A telescope’s narrow field of view and upside-down images make it more difficult to learn the sky, he said.

Bakken said he advises people to study the night sky – the constellations and the planets and their movements – before turning to optical instruments.

“Frequently a telescope is the wrong thing to get at first,” he said.

Bakken will lead two sessions of a library presentation Saturday called “Astronomy Without a Telescope.” He’ll lead a third session Aug. 11.

An introduction to the night sky from backyard vantage points, the presentation is best for kids in first grade and older, along with adults, Bakken said.

He’ll talk a bit about using binoculars or a small telescope to view the sky at night, but mostly he’ll talk about what people can see unaided.

“We talk about the planets you can see and how they move against the background stars, the constellations that we can see here in Spokane, and things like meteors and the aurora,” Bakken said.

The streamers or arches of light known as aurora borealis, or northern lights, are visible intermittently, depending on the activity of the sun. They look like “shimmering curtains,” he said.

One of the year’s most impressive meteor showers, the Perseids, peak annually around Aug. 11.

“You can see about 60 meteors per hour in the dark sky,” Bakken said.

Adrian Rogers

When and where: 1 p.m. Saturday, Indian Trail Library, 4909 W. Barnes Road. 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Hillyard Library, 4005 N. Cook St. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Shadle Library, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave.

Cost: Free

More information: (509) 444-5395 or www.spokanelibrary.org


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