ASTR 101 : Lunar Viewing (Lesson 5)

Continued from ASTR 101 : Buying a Telescope (Lesson 2).

I’m finished with my Charms homework. I can finally sit down to use my new telescope in peace, and practice Astronomy! The view from my window today looks magnificent, thanks partly to the clear sky, and partly to the fortunate location of the first years’ dorm up in the Ravenclaw Tower. It may not be as ideal as the terrace of Astronomy Tower, but this will do just fine for my date with the Moon tonight.

No matter if you’re a wizard or a muggle, the Moon will always fascinate you. That is why we cannot stop looking at it, even though it has been showing us the same face, unchanged for thousands of years. The Moon rotates around the Earth in a tidally locked synchronous manner, i.e. its near side is always facing the Earth.[4]

The assignments for the ASTR 101 course have been fun, so far, and I hope they continue to be so. There are mandatory assignments as well as extra-credit ones, and I have managed to do well in both, which makes me happy. But most of all, I have enjoyed the time we spent exploring the night sky with our magical telescopes.[1]

The Moon today (Thursday, 9 August 2018) is in a waning crescent phase. In this phase, the Moon’s illumination will grow smaller each day until the New Moon, which is three nights away. During this phase, the Moon is getting closer to the Sun as viewed from Earth and the night side of the Moon is facing the Earth with only a small edge of the Moon being illuminated. This phase is best viewed an hour or 2 before the sunrise and can be quite beautiful if one is willing to get up early, which I made sure I did. Actually, I did not sleep at all, out of excitement, and the Charms homework which kept me up until now. The waning crescent phase can also be a great time to see the features of the Moon’s surface. Along the edge where the illuminated portion meets the dark side, the craters and mountains cast long shadows making them easier to observe with a telescope.[2]

The magical albedo of the Moon right now is 0.12, which means the magical energy sent to the Earth from the Moon is waning too. Albedo is one of the five factors that determine the A.M.E. Quotient of an astronomical object. In case of the Moon, the Albedo is the only real variable that changes on a daily basis, over the course of 27.3 days that the Moon takes to go around the Earth. The other four variables- composition, observed size, interference,  and surface do not necessarily vary as much as albedo does, in the case of the Moon.[5]

Now that I had a look at the moon, which was not very much, considering the waning crescent phase, it is time to return the telescope back to its safe resting place. I’ll wait another fortnight until it is near the full Moon, to get another good look. I have to be careful to avoid the full Moon day, because it is harmful to both me and my telescope’s magical properties, to be viewing the full Moon through its lenses.[3]

Until next time, ciao.

[1] Lesson 1, An Introduction
[2] Lesson 2, Magical Telescopes
[3] Lesson 3, Telescope Tips and Tricks
[4] Lesson 4, A.M.E. Quotient
[5] Lesson 5, A.M.E. in Depth

ASTR 101 : Buying a Telescope (Lesson 2)

Continued from ASTR 101 : Guided by the Stars (Lesson 1).

What a fun day today was! We went to Diagon Alley! After I got my wand, books, stationery, potions supplies, and robes, the only thing remaining to buy was a telescope and a cauldron. Dad said Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipments is the place to purchase all accessories mentioned as necessary on my Hogwarts letter.

We looked through different kinds of magical and muggle telescopes. The differences between the two kinds, the store wizard explained to us, are that the magical telescopes come with scratch-resistant and break-resistant charms on them. We requested to see the von Rheticus-model magical telescope, because that is what my Astronomy Professor asked us to get. It has a large metal knob to zoom in, and a small metal knob that uses magic to focus the lens. The charms in the telescope are able to focus the lenses for us, but it is also possible to change to focus of the lens manually.

The store wizard also mentioned a number of safety precautions one needs to follow, to maintain a telescope. Always keep it in the case, and only take it out at the time of viewing. The same applies to the lens caps as well. The lens will get damaged if pointed directly at the Sun or the Moon when it is full. I finally picked out a bright blue von Rheticus-model magical telescope. The store wizard was kind enough to engrave my initials on the inner side of the lens cap. It is so pretty! I cannot wait to get to Hogwarts and learn to use it.

On the way back, we stopped at the pet store, and my parents bought me a barn owl. I named him Robin, because he is so little and so cute. The perfect end to what turned out to be a perfect day.

Continue to ASTR 101 : Lunar Viewing (Lesson 5).

ASTR 101 : Guided by the Stars (Lesson 1)

Source: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 15 (The Forbidden Forest)

Hey Vimaan, have I told you about the time I ran into Harry Potter, the famous Auror? I accompanied my dad to one of George Weasley’s fun parties once. The topic strayed over to centaurs, for some reason, and Mr. Potter had a very interesting story to share with us, of a time when he was our age!

Back when Mr. Potter was in first year, one day he got himself into detention with a few of his friends. I don’t know how but he ended up spending the night wandering the Forbidden Forest with his friends and Hagrid and Fang. I know, right? Legally! How cool is that! Anyway, the story goes that they ran into centaurs, Firenze and Bane. The only thing he remembers, after all these years, is the one line the centaurs kept repeating- “Mars is bright tonight.” No matter how hard they, especially Hagrid, tried to strike a conversation, the centaurs kept repeating the same line, over and over again, to the point of annoying Hagrid. Mr. Potter laughed so hard while recounting how irritated poor Hagrid was.

“Never try an’ get a straight answer out of a centaur. Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin’ closer’n the moon. Keep themselves to themselves mostly, but they’re good enough about turnin’ up if ever I want a word. They’re deep, mind, centaurs… they know things… jus’ don’ let on much.” Mr. Potter said, doing a near-perfect imitation of Hagrid, haha.

But he also added that it took them a few years to figure out what the centaurs had meant that night. In his fifth year, Firenze, who was the Divination professor that year, referred to Mars as the “bringer of battle,” and said it indicated that the Wizarding world was currently experiencing a brief calm between two wars. That makes so much sense! Centaurs may be weird and mysterious, but they are also surprisingly accurate almost all the time.

Source: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)

Hey Novellus, have I told you about the time I ran into Harry Potter, the famous Auror? I accompanied my dad to one of George Weasley’s fun parties once. The topic strayed over to werewolves, for some reason, and Mr. Potter had a very interesting story to share with us, of a time when he a third year at Hogwarts!

He recounted the time he saw Remus Lupin transform into a werewolf before his very eyes. According to him, a werewolf is a human being who, upon the complete rising of the full moon, becomes a fearsome and deadly near-wolf. To become a werewolf, it is necessary to be bitten by a werewolf in their wolfish form at the time of the full moon. When the werewolf’s saliva mingles with the victim’s blood, contamination will occur.[1] Remus Lupin was bitten by Fenrir Greyback as a child, on a full moon night.

“There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin’s head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws”, he described Remus Lupin’s transformation. According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the full moon is the only thing that can transform a werewolf.

It is interesting the kind of effect a celestial body like the moon has on human lives.

[1] How a wizard becomes a werewolf, Pottermore

Continue to ASTR 101 : Buying a Telescope (Lesson 2).