Vernal Equinox

Spring Equinox, 2015.

Is it weird that one of my favorite times of the day is walking from my car to the building through my work’s parking lot? There are two main reasons for this: It’s always pre-dawn or dawn and the morning has quickly become one of my favorite times of the day. -It’s quiet and reeks of potential; it’s innately optimistic. Plus, sunrises are usually really pretty and early on I can sometimes make out constellations. The other reason is that there are a few nice houses on the other side of the (big, pretty, old-growth) trees bordering the parking lot that have ponds. Trees and ponds equal vocal wildlife like birds and frogs. In the morning, they’re at full vocal force. So, my fleeting morning parking lot walks are mini audiovisual Nature escapades… and I love them! Here comes Spring…

Spring Sunset, 2015

Spring Sunset, 2015

The Equinox is the time of year when the Sun crosses the celestial equator and the day and night are equal lengths. This year, the Spring Equinox (Vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere is March 20th, marking the first day of Spring. This means longer days and shorter nights. (Our Australian friends are getting ready for the Fall.)

I really like equinoxes for a couple reasons. One reason is a little esoteric… Equinox: ‘equal.’ Things are balanced. We have equal lengths of day and night in the northern and southern hemispheres. The Sun’s rays are perpendicular to the equator and the Earth’s axis. Everything is ‘square.’ Balanced, equal, square… these things are easy to comprehend and manipulate. It’s the same reason why most buildings are square and straight instead of round and curved. They’re much easier to work with using our ‘feeble’ human minds. OK, human minds aren’t feeble, they’re just built for other things. Calculus and curves aren’t intuitive to us. Fortunately, the human mind is creative enough to dream up and build a machine that can help us with calculus and curves. But I’m getting off topic…

The other reason I like equinoxes is that they signal change; the end of something and a start of something new. To me, the Vernal equinox is especially welcome since it means Winter’s behind us and warmer days await. It’s a sign of good things to come.

Spring Sunset, 2015

Spring Sunset, 2015

I’m going to arbitrarily attribute the Spring equinox this year to the start of ‘telescope season.’ I’m really going to make it a point to get outside at night, and even the evenings and mornings, and do some observing and do it the right way. What I mean by ‘the right way’ is really learn how these tools (i.e. telescopes, cameras, etc.) work and how to use them correctly. For far too long I’ve been getting by with setting up the telescope or camera and doing the bare minimum in order to get something – anything – out of them, whether it be a pretty picture or whatever. But I really want to take things to the next step. I want to truly learn what it takes to have a good setup, good calibration, good technique, and ultimately come out with an actual good product.

And I want to try different methods of observations too. In addition to the astrophotography, I want to try my hand at sketching as well. This is a completely different type of observing going back to some of the earliest methods of astronomical record keeping. Just a simple telescope, a piece of black paper and a white pencil (chalk?) and your eyeball! No fancy equipment required. I’d even like to do some general naked-eye observing and maybe do some planetary position measurements and track how they move across the sky. (I’ll need to build a simple sextant for that… That might be fun!)

I’m cautiously optimistic that the weather will cooperate tonight since it’s supposed to be somewhat warm and clear (It’s raining now). Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and in the mid-sixties so I’m pretty excited about that! How’s that for the first full day of Spring?!

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