Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mars & a big telescope

Today we went over to the East Bay area to see how far it would be to drive from home if A. gets a job she applied for recently. We got lost a couple times, but figure it'll take about 30-45 minutes given that traffic will certainly be heavier during the week.

Then we went to the Chabot Space & Science Center up near Oakland. We saw it on some show and they allow visitors to take a look through their big telescopes! We liked the museum displays and the planetarium show... OK that was weird what with Harrison Ford narrating and it being a full on CG movie with the worst camera ever. We were both dizzy afterwards. Anyways, we went up to look through the two telescopes and waited in line for the small one 20 minutes and the large one for an hour and 15 minutes. The small one was pointed at two clusters of stars. Kind of a let down. The big telescope was pointed at Mars. When we finally got up there to view it, it turned out to be a blurry red disk. I could make out the polar ice cap, but only barely. (That's frozen CO2, dude. Dry ice.) It was pretty disappointing after waiting so long.

We did learn that the human eye is very sensitive to blue-white lights, but likes reddish lights much more. We asked why all the lights inside the telescope domes were red and they said that they use red because it doesn't interfere with the eye's night vision capabilities. This guy explains it in a little detail. Basically your eye sees with cones and rods. Cones see color and rods see at night. Rods take a while to turn on, so you are blind for a while when you flick off the lights. Red doesn't interfere with your rods.

I'm going to get some red cellophane and put it on our flashlights. I was amazed at how much better we could see compared to a normal "white" flash light.

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