Introduction to Astronomy – Week 3

This week at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge we had a talk by Ken Day entitled “A Cook’s Tour of the Solar System” as part of the Introduction of Astronomy course I am partaking in via the Cambridge Astronomy Association.

Ken took us through all of the planets in the solar system, plus comets and asteroids. He gave explanations about each object in the solar system and backed up each item with some great full colour images in his presentation.

I picked up a new useful facts such as:

  • The word “Planet” means wanderer in Greek.
  • The Sun is 109 times the diameter of the Earth.
  • Venera 9 the Russian probe to Venus in 1975 only lasted 23 minutes once it landed due to the harsh surface environment.
  • Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the Solar System which is on Mars.
  • There are dark “spokes” in Saturn’s rings – something that I did not know.

There was no trip out to any of the IOA telescopes tonight, a bit of a shame as it was a clear night, but instead we were joined by Green Witch the astronomy retailers from near Cambridge.  They bought a few items with them including Philip’s astronomy book, some binoculars and a Skywatcher telescope and some eyepieces.  They also handed out flyer’s offering us 5% off anything we purchased.

Green Witch set up a Celestron NexStar 5 telescope outside and they gave us the chance to view Mercury and the Moon. Everybody rushed outside after the talk so there was a queue to view Mercury, which everybody wanted to see.

Whilst the NexStar was being re-aligned on Mercury (the scope seemed to drift a lot, and not track that well) it was strange to see how similar the menu options were on the Celestron to the Meade, as I have never used or really seen a Celestron NexStar before. After two cups of coffee it was time to go home.

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