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Stargazing: Dressing warm for autumn stargazing

Stargazing: Dressing warm for autumn stargazing

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While at a star party for some school kids recently, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sympathetic about their comfort in the very cool evening air.

Being out from 7:30 to about 11 p.m., the temperatures dropped into the low- to mid-40s and I was certain a good many of the participants at the outing were beginning to feel the coolness.

Bob Allen

Bob Allen

Observing the sky or standing by a telescope for a prolonged period of time during cooler weather the body can get chilled remarkably fast unless precautions are taken before you get out there.

One thing amateur astronomers should take into consideration is the radiation of heat away from the body. Heat always flows toward a colder environment and unless some kind of insulation is used, the body’s heat is slowly but surely siphoned off.

I noticed that just about all of the students did not have something on their head and when it comes to radiation in colder weather that can become a very big problem.

It will be a while I know, but when our southwest Iowa late autumn and winters begin to get very cold and the temperatures get in the range of 5 to 10 degrees, 75% of all body heat will be radiated right through the top of the head.

But don’t forget that when temperatures are in the 30s, the loss of heat can also be significant.

As I’ve written before, amateur astronomy is a year-round hobby and in order to observe most of the 57 constellations visible to us from our location, it’s going to take 365 days for all of them to pass in front of our eyes.

Sometimes amateur astronomers have to make a decision of whether to go out in the middle of the night to look at the stars.

As I’ve written before, it’s sort of like a devil and an angel sitting on each of your shoulders.

Devil: “This is utterly ridiculous. Only a fool would get up and tromp outside in the middle of the night. Are you nuts! It’s 5 degrees below zero out there and there are 12 mph winds. I’d get back under the warm covers if I were you.”

Angel: “Don’t you remember? This is the last time this event occurs until the year 2035. If you don’t get up right now and record it you are going to hate yourself in the morning.”

Every astronomer, and I must confess I am guilty, has been tested like that at one time or another and it truly take a hearty amateur to leave a warm bed and go outside to see some celestial event in the dead of winter.

Some of the most beautiful constellations appear in the winter skies and provided you dress warmly, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy them in comfort.

On another subject, this evening the western sky will host planet Venus representing our Evening Star. Look also in the western sky for the moon almost equal distance below and between planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter will be the larger of the two planets and the scene really appears like the moon is swinging in a hammock that’s tied to Jupiter and Saturn at its ends.

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