VANDALIA – Didn’t get that telescope you wanted for Christmas? Not sure what to get that special someone for St. Valentine’s Day? It’s hard to go wrong with the gift of astronomy, but buyer beware!
If you’ve ever thought of having a star named after someone you might want to think twice. Although the service advertised on the radio will send you a nice certificate, and a starchart with, “your” special star marked on it, unfortunately only the Astronomical Union can officially name a star, and unless you’re the one who discovered it, good luck with that.
A good new telescope can be had starting at around $300, but if you find one for less that that you’re likely going to be frustrated with poor quality materials and rickety construction. Better to start off with that old pair of bird watching binoculars up in the closet and if you find out you enjoy the hunt for planets and such then make the investment.
However, if you want to give a gift that’s guaranteed to be a life long memory you want to start planning for August 21st. There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse in the U.S. for decades, but this August should be spectacular, if you’re willing to travel. From Dayton, a partial eclipse will be visible this August, but the difference between a total and a partial solar eclipse is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug, there’s just no comparison. How far do you have to travel? Just over five hours will get you in the path of totality just south of Knoxville, straight down I-75. Hotels are already filling up; people in the know, and with the cash chase these events to the ends of the earth and we’re lucky enough to have one practically in our back yard. Don’t forget though, the great reward does come with risk, a storm or even some clouds and all bets are off.
To find out more about these events, or anything else that’s, “Up” feel free to call Scott Oldfield, at the Vandalia Planetarium, Smith Middle School 241-6211, or visit in person. The planetarium presents a free show, open to the public the second Saturday of each month at 7:00pm. February’s, will be on Constellation Mythology.
Scott Oldfield is a science teacher in the Vandalia-Butler School District and the Director of the Smith Middle School Planetarium. Reach him at 241-6211.