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  1. Sort of, 14BY is the distance to the opaque wall of radiation left by the Big Bang, when corrected for the expansion of the universe. There's a chance that the universe could have been around longer, but the conditions which make for an omnipresent field of energy wouldn't last long. The Cosmic Microwave Background is all around us and can't be blocked in all directions by the intervening matter. This was something which took me a long time to wrap my head around The standard 'the universe is a balloon' model didn't do anything for me. The 'simplest' way to describe it is to imagine the universe as the image below. It isn't just the objects within the universe expanding but the universe itself. The green dots represent the galaxies in a universe at a moment in time, the red dots at a later time after the universe has expanded. If you pick any one galaxy from point A and superimpose image B over it, you'll see that all the galaxies seem to be moving away from you, making it appear, from your perspective, that you are the centre of the universe, but as images C and D show, it doesn't matter which dot you pick, they ALL look like they're the centre of the universe. You can either say that the universe has no centre, or that everywhere is the centre. There are two answers to this, firstly, we are inside the universe. Another nutcase in a car doesn't just appear in your passenger seat (unless you've had too much to drink to drive!) The second answer is more complicated but bear with me. Nothing, in quantum mechanical terms, doesn't exist. If you measure the spaces between particles, you find that instead of a total vacuum, you find a boiling sea of virtual particles popping in and out of existence, seemingly from nothing. If you want to read up more on this, look up 'quantum foam' or 'The Casimir effect.' In our universe, these small disturbances don't add up to much, but in the early universe, prior to expansion, a tiny disturbance led to a massive imbalancing of energy which is why we're here to talk about it. I'm just an enthusiastic amateur, but Ethan Siegel can explain it far better than I can -- with maths! http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/08/13/what-makes-the-universe-expand/
  2. Hello from a fellow newbie. A lack of a back garden from which to observe is the biggest downside to living in the centre of the concrete jungle.
  3. Ok, Rowan,I think you win this one! And I like the telescope quote a lot.
  4. Thanks. I see your wife's ignorance and raise you the two fools who wondered whether you could touch the stars if you stood on the Moon.
  5. Cheers, I wondered what time it was on.
  6. It does look like it. I thought you'd be able to see the rays from that distance but apparently not.
  7. Much nicer than my current moon pics.
  8. My OH actually bought my telescope for me. I'd mentioned when we went to see the Pleides shower that I'd quite like to get into astronomy properly, cue a few months later, a massive present under the tree... We've been learning it and the night sky together, she was the one who found Jupiter after "I want to look at... that bright star there." As long as I bring some extra layers and a canteen of tea, she's as happy as I am.
  9. Actually, my partner is a teacher and I'm frequently astounded by the level at which her students of 9-10 year-olds. They were two kids who had no interest in school and had simply lost interest in science, whether that was their fault, the teacher's fault or the system's fault I can't say
  10. I live in the centre of the city, so when I take the telescope out, it’s invariably to public parks, which means you’re never short of dog-walkers, doggers, drunks and chavs. Most of the time they ignore the strange eccentric standing in a field with a tube pointing at the sky but the first time I took my scope out two lads came over to ask what my partner and I was doing. They were in their late teens, hadn’t even been to a science class in years and were possibly two of the most ignorant people I’d ever met. It was the night that the aurorae were visible in some southern regions of the UK and they asked whether we were there to see ‘the lights.’ We told them ‘yeah’ and, figuring that we knew something about them, started asking us what they were. Now I don’t know whether you’ve ever been in a situation where you realised that you’d massively overestimated the knowledge of the person you were talking to, but as I started to explain about the Earth’s magnetic field drawing the Sun’s charged particles through our atmosphere it quickly became apparent that I may as well have been speaking Swahili. We kept dumbing down the explanation until the point where to explain that the sun was a big ball of burning gas, we made burning sound effects. Still, they were captivated by the sight of the moon through the telescope and asked some of the sorts of questions that kids might ask about the universe. One of them commented that he wished he hadn’t failed science and I told him that it doesn’t matter what education you’ve had, if you’re interested in finding out about the universe, the answers and wonders are out there for you to discover. I don’t know whether they did anything with the experience, but I like to think that we helped to inspire just a little bit of curiosity and awe in two lads who had no interest in science before. I went home feeling just a little proud.
  11. Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone!!
  12. Hello from the West Midlands in the UK. I’m an absolute beginner in stargazing but I already love it (when the unreliable British weather allows) When I say that I’m a beginner, this really isn’t an understatement – the first time I took my telescope out I got incredibly frustrated that something designed to look at the skies wouldn’t tilt more than about 30 degrees from horizontal, Instead of tilting my (what I thought at the time) badly-designed scope at the sky, I adjusted the tripod’s legs and practically laid down on the grass to see through it. Only after an hour of prone stargazing did I discover I’d mounted my scope back-to-front in its bracket. With my instrument mounted correctly, I ambitiously sought out the Orion Nebula, planning to go from the buckle of Orion’s belt downwards. It took me an age to even find the right star – I had it lined up in my spotter scope precisely, but could I find it through the main lens? Not a chance. Feeling frustrated, I gave up on distant wisps of gas and dust and turned my attention to something I felt that I couldn’t possibly miss – the moon. Again, I got Luna lined up in the spotter scope, looked through the main lens and saw a brilliant white glow – the moon! All I had to do was bring it into focus, but no matter how much I turned the dials, it always seemed blurry and indistinct. Eventually, I shook the scope in frustration, only to discover that I was just focusing on the reflected glow and that the actual moon was a couple of arc-minutes away. I’ve learned to calibrate my spotter before looking for anything more distant than the Moon. Since then, I’ve been accidentally mirroring the discoveries of Gallileo, finding the moons of Jupiter, discovering that Mizar is a binary star and imaging the mountain ranges of the Moon. So far, I haven’t been looking for anything in particular, just pointing at objects in the sky, noting their position on the star charts and reading up on them when I get home. I’ve read a lot of advice since starting which says that I’ve been going about it all wrong, but I’ve enjoyed the trial-and-error learning experience, everything I’ve found has been a genuine discovery to me, even though they’ve been common knowledge to astronomers since the time of the ancients. Mizar and Alcor, for instance, who’d have thought that they were two separate stars?
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