Reading of the stars
There are quite a few things to do, I’ve found, that keep my interest in astronomy satiated when I can’t get out any actually look at anything. This is a good thing, since getting out there can be such a challenge. Even as I write this, it’s currently something like the 10th cloudy day in a row of cloudy days.
Reading and the internet are my friends in this arena, my cloudy sky BFFs. As far as the internet goes, there is an epic amount of both inspiringly good and laughably bad information to be had, so one of my favorite ways to filter through it all is via blogs. My #1 pal in this department is Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy. He writes well, he’s an actual professional astronomer, sometimes gets political (though fortunately our politics are aligned) and always sites the source. Also, the blog Universe Today, which is focused on the science stories, but still well written and entertaining. Then there’s the Science Daily‘s astronomy page. This is a good place to see the stories of the day, but often they’re written by journalists, not scientists, which can be a bit hit or miss. Overall though it’s pretty good and if you get the Astronomy Magazine eNewsletter, it’s 90% the same content that shows up on this site. Then there’s the amateur astronomy forum megalopolis Cloudy Nights. Everything from equipment reviews in EXTREME detail (like guys taking their new eyepiece to a full-fledged optics lab for bench tests) to forum discussions on every imaginable topic.
The books I read keep me going as well. The few I’ve read on the subject lately that stand out are Titan Unveiled, which is a detailed look at Saturn’s smoggiest moon and the way the science was performed via the Cassini spacecraft. If you’re curious about Titan, it’s a totally bitchin’ read. If you don’t care about lakes of hydrocarbons or cryo-volcanism, reading this one would be about as much fun as lighting your face on fire. How I Killed Pluto, on the other hand, is probably enjoyable by anyone with even a passing interest in anything more intellectually stimulating than Jersey Shore. It’s a quick, fun, read and shows the human side of the scientist and author, Mike Brown. Right now I’m reading The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman, my favorite columnist for Astronomy Magazine. It’s an amusing look at the science of the sun and the sordid history of it all. I’m digging it so far anyway.
Of course, the magazines are great too. I’ve mentioned Astronomy Magazine twice now, as if they were paying me, but Sky&Telescope is also one to which I subscribe. They’re both great and when they finally get their digital subscriptions going a little more smoothly, I’ll be excited to switch to those and to ditch the tree-killing hard copy. I’m a member of organizations like The International Dark-Sky Association as well, so I get their publications, if only occasionally. I love those guys, they have a very pragmatic approach to conservancy.
So, there you go. This is what I do with my amateur astronomy when I can’t use a telescope. I’m lucky to live in a time when so much is available to me. Still, I’m always looking for more and if I find something cool, you can be sure I’ll post it up here.