Bob Allen

Bob Allen stands outside The Daily Nonpareil offices.

Members of the Omaha Astronomical Society (OAS) have created an outreach program for the public known as “Astronomy in the Parks.”

While the majority of their viewing is away from the light from nearby streetlights, houses, and passing automobiles, setting up a telescope within the city definitely has its drawback. Be that as it may, on July 9, the OAS will host “Astronomy in the Parks” at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha for some celestial viewing.

The location at Zorinsky will be on the soccer fields and those who plan to attend are asked to enter the park at the 156th and F Streets entrance. The observing session runs from 7 to 11 p.m. weather permitting.

Astronomers, both amateur and professional, consider themselves as investigators of the universe whose work is often divided between observational and theoretical research.

Of course the easiest aspect of astronomy to get involved in is the observational side. All it takes is a basic understanding of the sky and some quality optical aides.

It’s once you begin observing the heavens that you also begin to absorb some of the theoretical as well as philosophical values of the science of astronomy.

I remember one question, asked by a person who stopped by to take a peek through our telescopes, “What can an amateur astronomer do that isn’t already being done by a professional.” That was a good question and one very easy to answer.

Amateur astronomers outnumber their professional counterparts 30 to 1, and contribute enormous amounts of valuable data to the field.

It’s not that they are more adept than the professionals. The larger observatories just don’t have the time to do the meticulous observations that amateurs are in the best position to do, primarily by sheer numbers.

Certainly not everyone has an interest in the stars or astronomy but through the “Astronomy in the Parks” program, the OAS hopes they can generate interest that wasn’t there before.

One of my favorite quotes comes from noted French author and astronomer Camille Flammarion who, in his “Dreams of an Astronomer” wrote: “It is one of the charms of astronomy that it enables us to see through space. Those who remain ignorant of this science do not even know that they are depriving themselves of the most agreeable satisfactions of the mind. They are like travelers who pass through a wonderful landscape without asking where they are.”

Certainly not everyone has an interest in the stars or astronomy. Those who do, and want to take the time to “ask where they are” the OAS invites them to attend one of their monthly meetings.

The OAS meets on the first Friday of the month in Room 169 of the Durham Science Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The meeting actually begins at 6:30 p.m. with a Q & A segment and beginner’s time followed by refreshment and social at 7 p.m. The actual meeting part begins at 7:30 p.m. with a variety of subjects on the agenda.

There is no cost to attend and anyone with an interest in amateur astronomy is welcome. I don’t think you’d be disappointed.

On another subject, tomorrow afternoon at precisely 12:54 p.m. CDT, the sun will cross what’s known as the Tropic of Cancer resulting in summer season in the northern hemisphere while it is the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere.

With the summer time heat we often experience, some people think we must be closer to the sun for all that heat to be radiated in our direction. Not so! Earth is closest to the sun in mid-January than we are now.

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