Home Bookselling The Blue Collar Bookseller Review: Falling Stars | Comments

The Blue Collar Bookseller Review: Falling Stars | Comments


The night sky is truly a wonder to behold, and for a young boy just beginning a life of discovery, my dad’s old binoculars were all I needed.

When you read about the latest discovery with the Hubble Space Telescope you might think that the only things worth looking into are with the biggest, best and most expensive equipment, but that’s just not not true.

If you’re starting to get interested in astronomy, you might want to consider Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds.

Why start with binoculars?

1. A pair of binoculars of reasonable quality can be bought for less than $100; a reasonable quality telescope can cost twice as much or even more.

2. Binoculars are easier to learn to use than a telescope.

3. Objects are easier to find with a standard pair of binoculars than with a telescope. Standard binoculars allow a novice to begin learning the night sky and navigating from object to object.

4. If you decide astronomy isn’t for you, you can always use the binoculars for other things.

5. Two eyes are simply better than one.

Many amateur astronomers keep a pair of binoculars when observing. Binoculars can be useful for examining a section of the sky first before an object is located. And when that occasional fireball appears, a pair of binoculars is useful for examining the smoke trail, or train, often left behind – and if you’re quick enough, the meteor itself.

Most of us have looked up into the night sky and seen what is commonly referred to as a shooting or shooting star. These momentary contrails occur when meteors, objects ranging in size from dust particles to fist-sized masses, enter Earth’s atmosphere and are heated to incandescence. Few of these objects survive their encounter with our atmosphere.

What we see on Earth is a trail of light that lasts about half a second on average. Generally, the larger the material that enters the atmosphere, the brighter the meteor.

Brighter meteors will occasionally leave a trail of smoke in their path for a few seconds; the trails produced by very bright meteors, called fireballs, can last a few minutes. Fireballs that appear to break or produce sound are called fireballs.

One of the most prolific meteor showers (known as the Perseids) occurs in August. The Perseids are so called because the point from which they appear to originate is in the constellation of Perseus.

Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it extends along the orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14.

During the peak, the meteor rate reaches 60 or more per hour. To experience the shower in its fullness, one must observe in the darkness of a clear, moonless night, from a point far from major cities, where the stars are not obscured by light pollution, such as the Cherry Springs State Park*.

If you’re looking for a good introduction to the wonderful world of meteors and meteor collecting, check out Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites by Mike D. Reynolds. There are a number of good books on this subject, but this one is a quick and handy reference guide for first-timers and those who want to learn more about the origins of these interesting pieces of space rock.

It gives a brief overview of meteors and comets, descriptions of major meteor showers, major impact craters and famous meteor showers, and a breakdown of the different types of meteorites.

Backyard astronomy can be easy and fun. I’m going to make myself a big bowl of popcorn, drag my Barca deckchair around the garden and watch a FREE midnight show.

*Cherry Springs is not a delicious soft drink, but a Gold Star Certified Dark Sky Park and a great place to observe the night sky. My book, The Totally Ninja Raccoons Meet the Little Green Men, is set there.

Kevin Coolidge is currently a full-time factory worker and part-time bookseller at From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, PA. When he is not working, he writes. He is also a children’s author and creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons, a children’s series aimed at reluctant readers. Visit his author site at kevincoolidge.org

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