01 May 2009

Space: the final frontier

No, not those ultra-expensive trips being offered by the Russian Space Agency to the super-rich, but a two-day (one night) trip to the central western NSW town of Bathurst next week. It would have been a longer stay, but we have another commitment on the weekend that can’t be missed. We’re staying the night on a farmstay, so there will probably be a later blog post about that – especially the reaction of the kids when they actually get there. At the moment they’re really looking forward to it. But, given their usual response to live animals the farm experience might well be a disaster…!

Anyway, we got a call today from Yvette’s dad. He’s seen a telescope for sale at a garage sale, and he’s going to make an offer on it for us (it is unpriced at the moment). I love space, and the idea of owning a telescope is one that I’ve had since I was quite young, though I’ve always put it of as a bit of an indulgence. To be honest, I think many of them simply become unloved white elephants. However, if we successfully acquire this telescope we shall use it with gusto.

Yvette suggested taking it with us to Bathurst. I can’t think why that sounded so remarkable – what a great suggestion! A telescope is an ideal holiday instrument to have with kids around. Despite the fact that we know so much, the mystique of space has still a powerful hold over human imaginations. On a clear night, with very dark country night skies, it is an interesting way to pass the time with your kids – thoughtful as well as relaxing (if a teensy bit cold…). So if we get it, it will make the trip with us to Bathurst because the sky will be much clearer (weather permitting) than the light-polluted skies of Sydney. I shall have to see if we can find something really special like Jupiter or Saturn: but even the moon is fascinating with a closer view.

One of The Bookworm’s abiding interests is planets and space. When she was in kindergarten she (with some help) constructed a model of the solar system out of painted polystyrene balls and we suspended it from an old curtain rod slung across her room. So, as part of an earlier holiday to western NSW, we did a number of “space” themed activities. We visited the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Siding Spring, Coonabarabran, and the Radio Telescope dishes at Narrabri. And we did the drives out of Coonabarabran following the World’s Largest Virtual Solar System Drive(see tomorrow's post for details).

So I’m hoping we’ve acquired a telescope rather cheaply, and am looking forward to spending part of one night next week gazing up at the splendour of the Milky Way – weather permitting, of course. And I know the kids will be fighting each other for a turn at looking through it. We miss out on so much of the night sky in the city that it is a real treat to see it in full darkness.

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