今夜會群星

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1989 / 3月

文‧謝淑芬 圖‧陳品君


有一群人自稱陷溺「銀河」,卻非電影明星或歌星。他們常在夜深人靜時,架起望遠鏡,對準一望無際的星空。

對他們而言,星空比塵世要熱鬧,且美得令他們沈迷、難以自拔。


「月亮表面布滿環狀的火山口,丘陵和山谷都籠罩在靜謐幽森的光芒下。金星則像月亮一樣,從滿到缺、由虧轉盈,不斷循環。木星的身邊帶著四個小寶寶(衛星);土星的外圍有一條奇妙的光環圍繞……。」

想要享受這樣的星空美景,讓思想馳騁於宇宙,工具只要一架望遠鏡和一張星座圖即可。

借助口徑五到六公分的望遠鏡,平常看來平凡無奇的太陽系家族,都會在鏡中褪去層層神秘輕紗,展現出驚人的面貌。

伽利略「始料未及」!

西元一九五七年,蘇俄發射第一顆人造衛星進入太空,由於當時太空科技剛起步,無法精確掌握人造衛星運行的軌道,且極有掉落的可能。為此,全球的業餘天文觀測者紛紛架起高倍望遠鏡,或組成觀測團體,觀察及監視它行經的軌道。

那次人造衛星圓滿的發射,不僅奠定日後太空探險的基礎,也使人驚訝地發現,全世界居然散佈了如此眾多的業餘天文觀測者;這恐怕是十七世紀伽利略發明望遠鏡時所始料未及的吧!

對於自然環境的好奇,是人類與生俱來的本能,宇宙至今仍有無數人類亟思解開的謎題,但為什麼業餘天文觀測者遍佈全世界,卻很少聽說有業餘地震或氣象觀測者呢?

我國近代著名的天文大師高平子提供了答案:「凝望幾億年前、從遙遠星球發出的光芒,思及它已然跨越大半個宇宙才映入吾眼簾,能不讚嘆宇宙之浩渺?心胸為之遼闊舒蕩嗎?」

一管可窺大千世界

靠著簡單的工具,我們可極目宇宙,觀看群星為我們安排的特別節目。例如像個小頑童的火星,平常小而難觀測,可是它每兩年又兩個月會接近地球一次,這時就可用望遠鏡捕捉它罕見的紅色身影。

當太陽、地球、月亮成一直線,較小的月亮被地球遮住,就是我們俗稱「天狗吃月」的月蝕:一輪明月高掛天際,地球的影子像片紅褐色的晚霞,緩緩掩向月亮,月亮則似嬌羞的新娘,漸漸隱沒在紅霞中,然後再一點一滴的探出臉來……。看過這場費時約四小時「秀」的人,都認為值回終宵守候的票價。

寧靜的夜晚星空,還有不少天馬行空的「過客」。三年前,哈雷彗星大駕光臨,這個拖著長尾巴、每七十六年回歸地球一次的宇宙遊俠,令全球為之騷動,眾人無不爭睹這可能畢生只得一見的景象。

浩瀚無垠的宇宙、動輒以億萬年計數的星球,總是不斷刺激人類聯想到己身有限的生命:「能否把生命延長?即使只是形式性的留下姓名也好。」發現新星並為之命名,是個「留名百世」的方法之一。

國際天文界有協定,凡是發現新星並經國際天文台認定後,可以為之命名。最常見的命名方式是冠上自己的姓氏,像「哈雷」,只要它不墜落,這個姓氏就永留天際。

「星際大戰」?

尋找新星,使這群業餘天文觀測者並非全然旁觀。業餘觀測者人數眾多,且遍布世界各個角落,可全天候進行「掃天行動」,發現新星的機率,不比專業天文學家少。

不過,只有較大的彗星會出現長尾巴;大多數的無尾小彗星,只有朦朧的光影,要在明亮的星叢中尋找,誠屬不易。

超新星、變光星、小行星都是眾天文觀測者追逐的目標。

台北市立圓山天文台長蔡章獻,在西元一九五二年,曾經發現一顆變光星,他持續觀察數月,做成紀錄,經美國變星協會證實,而命名為麒麟變星。

自稱「走後門」,從業餘走向專業研究的蔡章獻,小時候常在家中院子仰望夜空,思索白天在兒童科學雜誌堿搢鴘漱悀撅`識。初中一年級,買了第一架直徑僅三公分的望遠鏡後,就此陷溺銀河,至今數十年。即使參加第二次世界大戰,也不忘隨身攜帶小望遠鏡和星座圖。

「觀測變光星,必須能測出廿分之一的光度差,且要持續精密的觀察記錄」,蔡章獻說,這些非長期累積經驗和知識不可得。其他如流星飛越,要在短短幾分之一秒的時間堙A判斷出它的位置、光度、速度、顏色及時刻;甚至不明飛行物的追蹤,都需要相當的學識。這不也增添了觀測時緊張、刺激的趣味嗎?

台灣是觀星的好地方

「台灣位於北半球低緯度地區,可看到全球百分之九十以上的星空。換句話說,全天空八十八個星座,起碼找得到八十二個」,嘉義天文協會總幹事陳俊榕說,台灣相當適宜觀賞星象。

「近年來,台灣經濟高度發展,國民所得大幅提高,生活富裕後,自然有餘力購買望遠鏡,因此觀星人口迅速增加」,老天雜誌社社長馮鵬年說。

「現在的人幸福多了」,私人文山天文台長陳正鵬回憶,卅年前他十歲,因買不起望遠鏡,只好自己用一個紙盒、配上老花眼鏡片,做了個克難望遠鏡,當時他就在心中埋下一個夢想,將來一定要建造一座私人天文台。

「如今,一架高倍望遠鏡的造價,也不過相當於一輛轎車的價錢」,陳正鵬說,至於普通的望遠鏡則只需幾萬元,家長都有能力買給孩子,問題是「家長本身並沒有受過訓練,幫小孩買瞭望遠鏡,卻不懂得教他們操作和維護」,為此,他特地免費開放自家的天文台,希望民眾能「全家一起來」,學習觀測天象。

在省立台北師範實小的天文教室中,個子嬌小的黃龍一同學站在中間,技巧熟練地講解望遠鏡的操作,陽光照在廿幾張聚精會神的小臉上,吳金燕老師則在一旁指導。「正確的宇宙觀是愈早培養愈好」,她表示,以天文觀測為例,不但能教小朋友如何細心觀察,和耐心的記錄,還可激發他們豐富的想像力,以及主動求知的精神。

李祥賢在台北師範實小五年級時,被選入吳金燕老師的團體活動天文組,學習天文觀測。現在他升上國中,只要天氣晴朗,晚上做完功課後,必定扛著望遠鏡,上頂樓陽台觀測星象。

無限延伸視野

只可惜,隨著人口增加、密集,城市日益擁擠,入夜後,處處華燈,造成光害。人間一片光明,相對地,星空就黯然失色了。兼之空氣污染,塵雲厚密,市區已很難見到滿天星斗的景象,促使觀星人士紛紛扛起望遠鏡,走向郊外。

台灣地勢高,只要遠離繁塵,任何高山、曠野均適宜觀星。熱愛天文攝影的陳培●每個月都要背著器材,上玉山或阿里山拍照。「即使天公不作美,下雨或濃雲密佈,看不到星星,呼吸點新鮮空氣、欣賞山下的『繁星』,照樣令人心曠神怡,忘卻煩憂」,陳培●也是從小學就和天文結下不解之緣,他還打算出國專修天文攝影。

在歐美、日本,人們早已把天文觀測當做一種休閒活動,「現代人在忙碌急促的日常生活之餘,偶爾寄情星空,不但心靈上可稍有海闊天空的退路,對人世也能持較長遠、不功利的觀點」,中研院地球科學所副所長李太楓認為,星空可延伸人類的心靈空間。

其實,觀星最大好處是:不必緊張,勿需慌忙,這些無以數計、在幾億光年前迸裂且發光的星球,永遠長掛星空,等你相認。

〔圖片說明〕

P.36

由於地球的自轉,若將鏡頭對準南、北極,長期曝光,即可拍下星星呈圓環狀的「日周運動」。(陳培溺寣^

P.38

私人文山天文台長陳正鵬將他的望遠鏡取名為「童年的夢」。

P.39

從事天文攝影必須具備充足的天文知識,近年來因陳培楫漱j力提倡,而帶動一片熱潮。

P.40

星空的遼闊與奇幻,是人類擺脫塵煩、寄託心靈的最佳處,圖為M45星圖。(陳培溺寣^

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Meet the Stars

Daisy Shieh /photos courtesy of P. J. Chen /tr. by Phil Newell

There is a group of people who consider themselves "lost in space." But they aren't on TV. They do their work in the quiet dark of night. They set up their telescopes and take aim for the boundless universe. For these people, space is a bustling, vital place with enthralling, captivating beauty.


In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite. Because at that time space technology was in its infancy, it was hard to get an exact fix on the satellite's orbit. So amateur stargazers from around the globe manned their telescopes to observe its path.

That event not only set the foundation for the future exploration of space, it also revealed that a vast number of amateur astronomers could be found everywhere. This is something the seventeenth-century genius Galileo could not have expected when he invented the telescope!

Curiosity about nature is, well, natural in man. But why are there so many amateur astronomers, and not seismologists or meteorologists?

The leading ROC astronomer of recent years, the noted Kao Ping-tze, responds: "To gaze at brilliant light which originated hundreds of thousands of years before from a distant star, and to think that it has crossed half the universe, is it possible not to sing the praises of the vastness of the universe? Is not the mind's eye widened in wonder?"

All you need is a small five or six millimeter telescope and a map of the heavens to get the ordinary planets of our solar system to reveal their mysterious, subtle visages. The moon becomes crater, mountain ranges, and valleys sweeping under a cold ray of light. Venus appears similar to the moon, ceaselessly rotating. Jupiter has four small companions (satellites) at its side. Saturn is graced with a halo. . . .

And the galaxy arranges special programs as well. Mars, ordinarily obscure, comes near the earth for two months every two years to give the attentive a glimpse of its red color. And when the sun, earth, and moon line up: "the shadow of the earth is like an enveloping mist, the moon like a hesitant new bride, slowly engulfed, and then again gradually revealing her face." It's a show well worth the ticket price.

The vast heavens, with bodies of ages calculated in trillions, cannot but make man think of his own limited life. "Can my life be extended?" If one discovers and names a star, then one can leave one's name behind for eternity. By international convention, the discoverers of new stars can christen them, and usually do so with their own names. Thus, for example, "Halley's Comet."

In the search for stars, amateurs are not just bystanders. Covering the universe 24 hours a day, they discover stars at a rate comparable to professionals.

Comets are usually too dim to be seen, but there are other prey: supernovas and variable stars, for example. Tsai Chang-hsien, director of the Taipei Observatory, discovered a variable star in 1952. He watched it and kept records for several months. Following confirmation by the American Association of Variable Star Observers, he named it Variable Star 065208C of Monoceros.

As a child, Tsai sat in his yard surveying the heavens and pondered over astronomical tidbits in the children's science paper. In his first year in junior high, he got a small 3 mm telescope. Even while in World War Two, he didn't forget to keep his telescope and astronomical map at his side.

"To find a variable star, you have to be able to discern a difference of 0.05 magnitude, and must keep continuous detailed records of the observation," says Tsai. For something like a meteor, you've got only a fraction of a second to judge its position, intensity, speed, color, time. . . . This requires deep knowledge and experience, but doesn't it make star watching all the more stimulating?

From Taiwan, at a low latitude in the northern hemisphere, one can see 95% of what can be seen from the earth, says Chen Chun-jung, chairman of the Chiayi Astronomical Society. Feng Peng-nien of Of Man & Heaven magazine notes that, due to economic prosperity making telescopes accessible, the number of amateur astronomers has grown.

"Now people are really lucky," says Daniel J.P. Chen, who recalls his first "telescope" as an old magnifying glass in a paper box. Now most families can afford the several hundred dollars to buy a telescope. The problem is, few know how to use or maintain them. Chen has opened the free Private Wen-shan Astronomical Observatory in hopes of getting the whole family to learn about astronomy.

In the astronomy classroom at the Attached Experimental Elementary School of Taiwan Provincial Taipei Teacher's College, amazed students, sunlight shining in their faces, hear classmate Huang Lung-yi explain how to operate the telescope. "The sooner they develop a proper view of the universe, the better," says teacher Yu Jui-chu. From astronomy they learn not only the importance of observation and accurate records, but their imaginations are fired as well.

Alas, the bright lights and smoggy skies of heavily urbanized Taiwan have made stargazing tough in the city. Many like P.K. Chen, photographer of the (heavenly) stars, take to the mountains and suburbs. Even if the weather is not kind, there is still fresh air and a chance to leave one's troubles behind.

Astronomy has long been a leisure activity in the West and Japan. But, says Li Tai-feng of the Academia Sinica, it is also a way for the soul of the stressed modern to find its own "space," and maybe to give someone a better perspective on the daily affairs of the world. The best thing about it all is that there's no need to be hasty or tense; the stars have been there for billions and billions of years, and they'll wait for you.

[Picture Caption]

Because the earth revolves, if one points one's lens at the south or the north pole, then you can take this picture of the stars "taking a lap around the poles." (photo by P. K. Chen)

The Director of the Private Wenshan Astronomical Observatory, Daniel J. P. Chen, calls his telescope "A Childhood Dream."

To do astronomical photography requires substantial astronomical knowled ge. In recent years, due to the encouragement of P. K. Chen, there has been a tide of enthusiasm.

The vastness of space is the best place for mankind to leave behind its daily worries and elevate the soul. The photo is of the star M45. (photo by P. K. Chen)

 

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