A self-proclaimed “rabid amateur astronomer,” Ron DiIulio, a.k.a. “Starman,” collects meteorites and is especially interested in asteroids. He and Preston Starr, manager of UNT’s Rafes and Monroe observatories, last year found pieces of what is believed to be a meteor seen streaking across the Texas sky near the town of West.
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“The best way to find meteorites is to become familiar with what the various types look like,” says DiIulio, adding that people can bring in their own pieces of rock and compare them to real samples in an exhibit in front of the UNT Sky Theater.
As a NASA solar system ambassador, DiIulio educates the public on how space impacts daily life.
He offers the following tips for backyard star watching:
- Watch the weather reports and wait for a night that is clear, dark and moonless for the best viewing. Once you get to your viewing spot, give your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the dark.
- If you’re just getting started in astronomy, the best thing to do is to first get acquainted with the stars with just your eyes. You’ll be able to see on a clear night the Moon, the five naked-eye planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — and occasional satellites and meteor showers.
- Remember the basic tools to stay comfortable for sky watching: a blanket or jacket for cool nights, and bug spray in the summer.
- Find your way through the universe with a simple star chart, such as our monthly star map that will allow you to get familiar with the night sky. Don’t forget to keep an observing log to record what objects you see and how they change over time. You’ll need a flashlight to read the chart log, so be sure to cover the lighted end with red paper to avoid disrupting your night vision.
- Binoculars offer a great inexpensive introduction to the night sky. When held steady, they should give you a glimpse of the Moon’s craters and perhaps a bright comet.
- If you’re ready to move on to a telescope, avoid purchasing the common, inexpensive types usually found near the checkout counters of some department stores. While they usually promise high magnification and crystal-clear images and come in boxes covered with wonderful pictures, they typically have cheaply made tripods, which shake so much that many users give up after a few sessions.
- Dobsonian telescopes are the most economical telescopes to consider if you’re looking for a starter telescope. They are simple, easy to carry, and can be safely used by younger children. These telescopes offer great “bonding” opportunities for families. Visit the UNT Sky Theater exhibit hall to see a display of different types of telescopes, including an exact replica of Galileo’s first refracting telescope, and Newton’s first reflecting telescope.
For answers to all your stargazing questions, contact “Starman” at firstname.lastname@example.org.