Dear current and future MIT students,
There is a class you need to take.
12.409: Hands-On Astronomy. It’s a 6-unit P/D/F (your options are: pass, get a D, or fail). You learn the basics of amateur astronomical observing: sketching, assembling a telescope, using a telescope and a map to find faint objects, constellation identification, basic astronomy like the magnitude system and optics. I talked more about the class here.
One evening, I had my head in the sky for SEVEN HOURS straight: one hour up on the roof (using a telescope to find Comet Pan-STARRS as the sun set), two hours total in the van, and four hours out at Wallace Observatory. There, I sat outside in the snow, huddling in six layers of clothing + a hat + gloves, peering through the telescope I set up. I managed to find the Beehive Cluster using a map (that I read in red lamplight). I took the occasional break to have a hot drink inside. I’m being sincere when I say that those were seven of the happiest, most peaceful hours of my life.
Eric ’14 and I tried our hand at some astrophotography; here are our first attempts. Hopefully next time we can start taking pictures of nebulae, galaxies, etc.
Let me know if you recognize any celestial objects! Constellations, stars, planets?