Observe Shallow-Space Objects

Things that go zip, zoom, phizz, DOH-DEE-DOH, and BOOM in the night.

For a long, long time, the stars were referred to as “The Fixed Stars” because it was believed that they were perfect and unchanging. Well, I’ll forgive the ancients for thinking they were perfect. Given the lack of light pollution they had and their dependence on stars for navigation, time and date calculations, and religion, they had great knowledge and appreciation for the night sky. But they made one crucial mistake: they ignored things that didn’t fit their idea of how things worked. Because it is plain to see, if you look closely enough, that the stars do change. There is a fair bit of action out in the universe.

It is possible to take note of this from your backyard (or, better, from your friends’ backyards in the country). The most obvious mobile objects are the Sun and Moon. You may not even think about the Sun being a mobile astronomical object but it is a fine one (always use a safe solar filter when observing the Sun) and, of course, its motion in the sky gives us the day. The Moon, also, you’ve no doubt seen tooling around the sky, changing phase as it does so. And, whether you’ve ever explicitly noticed it or not, if you’re reading this book, you’re most likely aware that the planets move relative to the stars in our sky. The ancients knew about all of these objects moving in the sky and had nice, if incorrect, explanations for all this motion. But there is a lot going ...

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