Interview with Dr. Ana Larson

For those wanting more from Sara and the Stars, I’ve transcribed an interview of mine (conducted on Oct. 8 ) with Dr. Ana Larson, a senior lecturer of astronomy at the University of Washington.  I asked her questions pertaining to the necessities for stargazing, which will be incorporated into an upcoming blog post.

Please post any questions about stargazing for Larson to this interview.  I’d be glad to work as an intermediary for other interested stargazers.

S:  Is stargazing simply observation of the stars or is there more to it?

L:  Stargazing would be looking for patterns of stars, colors of stars, learning where constellations are during the year, what time they’re up, etc.

S:  Do you have any stargazing tips?

L:  All [you] need is the desire to look at and learn about the stars.  I recommend a star map or a star finder.  Take it with [you] at night, and then dial up what to look for in the sky.  Also, take binoculars.  A high-power [pair of binoculars] is not needed.

S:  When is the best time and where is the best location to go stargazing in the Seattle area?

L:  Whenever it’s clear.  We have so few clear nights that you really want to get out there any time you can in the year.  Get away from city lights.   She recommends going to Rattlesnake Lake and sitting right in the parking lot.  She says it’s the closest, easy, and really dark.

S:  How should beginner stargazers go about stargazing?

L:  Actually, what I do is what so many astronomers do:  I just look up and see what’s around.  It’s comforting to me to know that the stars are still out there.  I can always just look up at the stars.  Look for what the phase of the moon is and what planets are visible.

S:  Do you have any websites you recommend to help beginner stargazers?

L:  She says to go to the Astronomy Department website at www.astro.washington.edu/pages/outreachtools.html and look at the astronomy links.  Also, try the Astronomical Seattle Society web page at www.seattleastro.org.

S:  What should stargazers hope to get out of the stargazing experience?

L:  Wonderment, desire to learn more about what they’re looking at– an interest to find out what’s all out there instead of just white twinkly things.  They’ve got to ask themselves questions:  Why are some stars brighter?  Why are some stars different colors?  Why do stars die out?  Why are they born?

S:  Should stargazers be looking for any specific constellations, stars, etc. in the upcoming months?

L:  Orion, definitely.  There’s a lot going on around the constellation of Orion.  [Also look at the constellations] Taurus, Aries.  It’s a very interesting region, because it’s an active star region with nebula and star clusters and all sorts of things.

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