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Stargazing guides from U of G physics department shows residents what to spot in the night sky

'There’s all this incredible phenomenon that you can see out there, if you just look'
20211220 u of g stargazing guides AD
Orbax Thomas in a scene from one of the stargazing guide videos. In the background there is an outline of a constellation.

Constellations, planets and astronomical wonders are the stars of a new video series from the University of Guelph.

The physics department at the university has been releasing local stargazing guides to inform residents of what they can see in the night sky within Guelph and Wellington County.  Here is a video from the series called the December 2021 Star Gazing Guide:

The creator of the series, Orbax Thomas, is a production specialist within the physics department. With the December 2021 Star Gazing Guide out, Thomas explains a stargazing guide for January will be released during the first week of the month.

“If you’re like me, the biggest thing always happens is you find out the day after some big astronomical thing happens,” said Thomas about stargazing. “You find out last night there was an eclipse or last night there was a meteor shower, but you never find out in advance, so my hope with this was to do these monthly, drop them at the beginning of the month, and give people the opportunity to plan to go out and do it.”

Thomas said he was inspired to create the guides based on stargazing guides, which aired on PBS. The videos done through the physics department are meant for amateur astronomers and those who are interested in science. With more people at home, Thomas adds these videos also give others an opportunity to explore the outdoors and bond.

“A lot of people are doing this, but usually, they have a much more global view of this type of thing and I thought, ‘No one is doing this as a service to the Guelph- Wellington area,’“ he said. “So it’s nice to be able to have the opportunity to know what’s coming up, to walk out your backyard, and see what’s coming up.”

Currently, Thomas said residents can see the constellations Taurus and Orion in the night sky. In January, residents can expect more meteor showers. Saturn and Jupiter are also brighter this time of year.

“In the early evenings throughout December and January, you’re going to be able to catch Venus as well, so you’ll have the rare occasion to see three planets above the horizon line," he said.

Besides teaching residents about the night sky, Thomas adds the videos are also another opportunity to teach physics.

“So we’ll do things like talk about what a solstice is, talk about what an eclipse is," said Thomas. "This month, I’m also going to be talking about the James Webb telescope. It’s an updated version of the Hubble telescope that will be launching much deeper into space and it gives us a brand new look into the universe that we live in with lots more insight as well.”

This isn’t the first time the physics department at the university has used videos to teach science. At the beginning of the pandemic, Thomas said the department released a series of videos where they answered kids questions about physics. He adds it's not just about educating people about science, but video can also be used to make it fun for all ages.

“The accessibility is the big thing, a lot of times, people feel that science is so far removed from them, when in truth, science is just all around you,” said Thomas. “It’s the reason the sun comes up and goes down, why plants grow, it’s the reason why it’s  cold now and warm in the summer, all these things are all based in science, and especially in this day and age, learning about it and learning true methodologies in science is truly important."

To see a full list of all the stargazing guide videos, and other video content by the University of Guelph physic's department, click here

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Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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