North Texas Daily

Tour the Denton sky through stargazing

Tour the Denton sky through stargazing

Tour the Denton sky through stargazing
June 19
20:11 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

The arrival of warm nights has given us back our evening strolls, backyard camps and firefly catches. But if you find yourself growing tired of these been-there-done-that activities, stargazing has become a popular yet novel way to add a little more entertainment to your summer nights.

Although this pastime used to be either the science student’s idea of relaxation or an opportunity for heart-to-heart talks with your significant other, stargazing is now also considered a leisure pursuit, and there’s no better time to pick up the hobby than in the summer.

“Summer’s nights do not have the cold pinches that can stop some amateur stargazers from venturing outside,” said Jordan Watkins, physics and astronomy teaching assistant. “The best time to get someone interested in stargazing is when the ability to do so is least hampered by the environment, meaning when the warm night only needs a cold drink to keep a mind chipper.”

This season’s main astronomic event is the annual Perseid meteor shower. Peaking August 12, stargazers will be treated to a show of up to 100 shooting stars if observed from a location clear of light obstruction. However, even in the city, Dentonites can simply look up to view a few shooting stars without the use of equipment such as telescopes or binoculars.

“A lot of people think you need fancy equipment to go out and see a meteor shower,” said UNT planetarium manager Randall Peters. “All you need is a pair of eyes, a dark sky, and maybe a nice, comfy chair.”

And, if desired, both Peters and Watkins insist on the company of good old friends.

“The best way to watch any night-based activities of the sky is always with more people. Gather as many as you can and then find a place outside the city to park cars, turn off lights, and just look,” Watkins said. “Some of the most beautiful eruptions of the meteors will be easily seen without aid.”

Just like most hobbies, the simplest way to introduce students to stargazing is to have merely one person already enthusiastic about astronomy gather his friends and convince them that the night sky is more fascinating than, well, the night sky. To be interested in stargazing, Watkins said that one must first be interested in the grand existence of these stellar bodies, their motions, their formations and the possibilities that they represent.

“It also doesn’t hurt to tell them there’s a whole region in outer space that shoots out alcohol or one of Saturn’s moons has alcohol lakes,” Watkins said. “As long as you don’t mention that it’s mostly methanol, they seem to get pretty pumped about that.”

Feature photo courtesy of Ryan Bibb

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