Bob Allen

Bob Allen

Apparently one of my readers has been doing just that judging from the content of an e-mail I received last week.

Turns out the star he was looking at was Vega, Alpha Lyra, the fourth brightest start we can see from out vantage point on Earth and it is directly overhead and very easy to find.

From the beginning of time, mortals have gazed at the celestial dome arching above them and were in awe of the thousands of points of light shining back at them. To be able to go out into that still night and learn the stars names and patterns marks the beginning of an outdoor nature hobby that can become a lifetime of pleasure.

I’ve mentioned in several times in some of my columns that the best source of material to get you started is the public library. The variety of books and magazines are written especially for budding astronomers and the more you read the more you’ll improve your observing skills.

I have found also found out that although self-education is fine as far as it goes, there is nothing that can compare with sharing an interest with others who have the same interests as you. The Omaha Astronomical Society fits the bill and you can either log on to their web site at or, even better, attend their next meeting which will be Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 169 of the Durham Science Centeron the UNO campus.

Although the meeting doesn’t begin until 7:30 p.m. there is a 6:45 Astronomy Question and Answer/Beginner’s time followed by refreshments and social time at 7.

As you might imagine, some phases of astronomy can get extremely technical and that’s why I try to keep the subject matter of my columns on a basic level so that the material will, hopefully, be easier to understand.

There are, however, some interesting things to learn about and I thought this column would be a good place to list a few “Things To Make You Say Hmmmmm!”

1. To go from Earth to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy would take you 25,000 years traveling at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. To get to the other side of our galaxy will only take 150,000 years.

2. The Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object in space the human eye can detect. It is 2-1/2 million light years away. It is quite possible that this galaxy no longer exists but we will not know about it for 2-1/2 million years when the last vestiges of light emanating from the galaxy reaches our eyes.

3. The nearest star to the Earth is, of course, our own Sun. One of the nearest stars to our Sun is one named Alpha Centauri. This star is located 4.5 light years away.

If we tried to go to Alpha Centauri, our science at present time must be developed so we can place our astronauts in suspended animation for prolong periods of time.

If we were unable to do that, our alternative would be to make certain one of the crew members on the spacecraft is a woman. Moving at a sustained speed of 40,000 miles per hour no less than 6,240 generations of offspring would be born, live and die on the spacecraft before they reach their destination.

And that, again, is just to our nearest star ... one way. I think we have to accept the fact that it is downright foolish to try to visit some of the other brightly shining stars that lie beyond Alpha Centauri.

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