Stargazing 101 is now sold out.
Wellington as a capital city has a remarkably low level of light pollution meaning we can see plenty (but not too much) in our night skies. We would like to become the capital city which knows its skies.
This five-week course supports participants to learn and understand the night sky they are seeing, and get basic orientation skills. No experience necessary. Sessions stand alone. Suitable for age 12 and up.
Week 1: You are the Centre of the Universe
You’ve been told countless times the world doesn’t revolve around you, but in the world of stargazing and celestial navigation, you are the centre of the universe. In this introductory class you will learn how to use your body as a compass (the kind that measures angles) and a measuring tape in order to position/orient yourself to the sky.
We will also cover:
- How to keep an astronomical diary.
- How to be prepared as you journey into the darkness—tools for enjoyable experiences.
- Which resources to help you plan your outings.
- The class will begin with a short planetarium show
Week 2: Harvesting the Moon: Nemesis Numero Dos
Outside of man-made light pollution, the Moon is the biggest enemy of the stargazer. But like any obstacle in life, it also offers opportunities to learn how to best approach stargazing. Week 2 focuses on the orbit and phases of the moon—the lunar cycle—and how we can best use our understanding of it to maximize our experience. We will also cover the seasonal changes to and in our night sky, interesting stellar objects by season, stellar Maori stories of cultural significance as well as European
Week 3: Deep Sky Viewing: Getting Messier
In the 1770’s, French Astronomer Charles Messier grew frustrated as he searched for comets with objects that appeared to have similar characteristics–except they weren’t really moving. He published a list of these fuzzy blobs in his ‘Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d’Étoiles in 1771. What he was actually seeing were star clusters and galaxies far beyond our own.
Week 3 covers Messier and other deep sky objects their properties, movements/positions, proper motion of the stars and how to view and understand “Deep sky” observations. We’ll also cover star maps—where to find them and how to use them. No French required though you might need to bring binoculars.
Week 4: Diving in the Deep End
Mankind evolved over millions of years to be daytime animals. As such our eyes are limited in scope, and much of what we see in the night sky can, like it did with Messier, frustrate us as we can’t see the detail. But we are clever animals, and our desire to see beyond our world became the mother of invention. Week 4 introduces telescope viewing for deep sky objects. We will also cover the mechanics of the heavens–celestial coordinates and the proper motion of stars (building on our understanding of week two’s seasonal viewing)—and list by season telescope specific opportunities.
Week 5: The Big Turn Off
Light Pollution Humans have fundamentally changed our environment, often for the worse. And while on the list of environmental crimes against ourselves light pollution falls low, for stargazing it can completely ruin your experience. Week 5 ends with a citizen science workshop where you will learn how to use and implement the Bortle Scale and engage with the stargazing community by helping to monitor, measure, and report light pollution. This is Haritina’s favourite workshop.