Around me, I have seen a greater level of news and events about various astronomical events, findings and theories. The Discovery Channel and other such documentary channels seem to be playing a lot of astro-related TV shows, from the brilliant "The Universe" series to shows about aliens, UFOs and cataclysmic asteroid impacts. Well, whatever works!
What does the IYA mean for me? Well, firstly it serves as a ticket to allow me more time out under the stars! "Hey, honey, because it's the International Year of Astronomy, which is sanctioned by the United Nations, I am booking the next three Friday and Saturday nights out in the countryside, okay?"
Otherwise, I have set some goals for the year for my own interests as well as helping to popularize the hobby:
- Try and complete or attempt the Messier Marathon. The last few years, the intention was there, but due to either cloudy conditions, family commitments or work/study commitments, I couldn't even get out to observe. So, my plan is to attempt it with my 12" Lightbridge without the aid of computers. Just my scope, binoculars and some star charts.
- Take part in more outreach activities. A few months ago I assisted the local astronomy club with an outreach activity, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Showing folks various celestial sights, like planets, clusters etc. was really rewarding - it just opened their eyes and minds and there is some level of delight in seeing someone get to that place for the first time. So, I'm going to take part in more activities like this, be they organized through the local club, or self-organized in my local neighborhood or with my kids' school.
- Learn more about theoretical astronomy. I can find various objects quite easily, can identify a lot of lunar features, can spot the difference between a Losmandy G8 and G11. Ask me how a globular cluster is formed, or what the M57 Ring Nebula really is, and I am stumped. So, time to read into cosmology and other such complex material this year so that I can become a more knowledgable astronomer!
- Get my own kids more interested in the hobby. A few weeks ago I told my two ankle-biters that they could have my 6" dob. I would look after it, it would remain in my office at home. But they would start taking it out with me to look at the night sky. When the spring time comes around, I'll make more of an effort to make this happen. They love coming out with me and watching the moon from the front garden, but I want to take it to the next level.
- Make this blog more about wider astronomy as opposed to being a mere record of my activities. I get a lot of visitors to this blog, which is quite stunning. I think that based upon their search entries my blog does a decent job of appealing to a niche group of folks -those who are starting out in astrophotography as well as those looking for reviews of various scopes, eyepieces, books or software. I can also see that the blog misses a fair few queries as well, so will try and address that.
What are your goals? Perhaps getting your picture published on APOD? Learning more constellations? Buying a new piece of kit or building an observatory?
Whatever your adventures this year, have fun and enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the recognition the hobby gets this year, and perhaps spread the interest to folks who haven't even thought of looking up into the sky at night.