Things I learned tonight while stargazing.
1. On a beautiful clear winter night, after 10:00 PM, when Orion is high in the sky and the moon is down, you can draw a straight line between Bellatrix and Arcturus to Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky and only 10 lightyears away.
2. Looking north, you can clearly see the Dipper facing the west, and draw a clear line to Polaris, the pole star; Mizar seen through binoculars shows its binary nature clearly....
3. Jupiter's moons are clearly visible through 20x binoculars.
4. Carrying a good pair of gloves is far more effective at keeping your hands warm than chemical pyrite warmer bags.
5. Your vision is best when standing in the middle of a large field, as a school playground, so that the city lights don't interfere so much.
6. Your night vision starts to degrade dramatically when a vehicle pulls into the nearby parking lot and shines its high beams directly at you.
7. Waving at the car and saying "Sir? Can you turn off your lights please?" will not result in the lights being turned off.
8. Stepping closer to the car and saying "Hey! Turn off the lights PLEASE!" will not result in the lights being turned off.
9. Stepping toward the car may result in the driver getting out, in full police gear, shining his flashlight at you, and asking you to show your ID.
10. You should carry your ID with you, instead of leaving it in your own car, as this results in the police encounter being prolonged unnecessarily.
11. It is a good thing to carry star chart, H.A. Rey's THE STARS A NEW WAY TO SEE THEM, and a red filter lensed flashlight along with your field glasses, as it helps to demonstrate that you are indeed stargazing instead of being a peeping tom.
12. The police can run a check to see if you are on the sex offender list in a remarkably short time.
13. Standing in the middle of a school playground at night and stargazing is a violation of city ordinance that engenders a $100 fine.
14. Your court date will be ten working days after the ticket is issued; contact the court on Monday to be sure.
Happy stargazing, star lovers!