Every night a window opens over our heads to a truly wonderful world. For planets, the solar system, the moon, distant nebulae, star clusters and galaxies. Just look – Karol Wójcicki, a huge fan and promoter of astronomy, encourages you to keep an eye on it.
May 21 is the International Day of the Universe. We talk to Karol Wojski, promoter of astronomy, creator of Poland’s largest astronomical page, Head in the Stars, about why we look at the sky, which fascinates us so much and what we can see with the naked eye in the coming days and weeks.
Moreover, the Space Festival is also a great opportunity to remember the best films on this topic. On Filmbox Premium HD, and later also on Filmbox+, on May 21, you will be able to watch, among other things, the hit movie “Ad Astra” starring Brad Pitt. It is the story of an astronaut traveling across the solar system to find his father, who disappeared 20 years ago. “Ad Astra” takes viewers on an unforgettable journey through the most remote corners of space. The painting was nominated among others to Saturn for Best Special Effects and Costumes.
Interview with Carol Wojcicki
Do you often walk with your head in the stars?
So I say often. Knowing that heaven won’t wait for me, sometimes I give it more time and attention than I’d like. Fortunately the weather does not allow for monitoring every night and I can sleep well. I’m also in such a phase of my astrological passion that I’ve already noticed all these interesting things a few times. So today I am looking forward to a clear night when I can show others a truly unique phenomenon.
Why should we look at all?
Because most of the universe exists. Moreover, something that accompanies us practically throughout our lives, which many of us do not pay attention to. Locked in the bubble of the earth, we work every day only in sunlight. When it gets dark, we naturally go to rest, for a few hours or several hours we stay at home. Meanwhile, that’s when a window opens over our heads to a truly wonderful world. For planets, the moon, distant nebulae, star clusters, or galaxies. When searching, we can also see the latest technology and the most advanced solutions, like the International Space Station, which we don’t have to look for in sci-fi movies because it’s flying over our house, or the latest communication systems, like Starlink.
More than 175 thousand follow the profile of “With his head in the stars” on Facebook. People, so it is a medium-sized city. What attracts us to space, what are we looking for there?
As humankind, we have always been going further, crossing new frontiers. Today, for some, the universe has become the frontier of the unknown and the wonderful. The universe is still a mystery to us and this mystery attracts people. That’s why we’re looking and trying to reach for the stars. Literally, it is done by those who build space rockets or satellites. There are also those who just want to be watched and satisfied with. Me and people who follow my profile are in the last group.
Isn’t it that we’re in space looking for some kind of springboard from what’s here on Earth? Isn’t this a constant that we especially need today?
In a situation where the whole world around us is resting, when it is not at its usual speed, it is much easier to find peace and relaxation. At night, we can experience truly extraordinary views. Most importantly, we are surrounded by silence, and various wonderful things are happening above our heads. This helps to disconnect from reality. Interestingly enough, the phenomena I’m talking about are highly predictable. It is not without reason that the first calendars or even the number of time were created by mankind based on what is happening in heaven. Observing the flight of a satellite, for example, I can say that within 30 seconds the object will appear near a certain star and I know it will be. Only the clouds can thwart the plans of the observers, because the sky never fails in this respect.
What is worth watching right now?
In our latitude, at this time of the year, in the evening, the path of the Sun is set, that is, the line that symbolizes the plane of the solar system in the sky, along which the Moon, the Sun, as well as the planets move. Too big angle in sight. In human terms, we notice the delicate crescent of the moon in the spring sky high above the horizon. This spring, we were also able to admire Mercury, the most difficult planet to observe. Mercury is always close to our star and fades in its glare, in addition, it quickly changes its position. There is a reason that her name refers to a Roman divine messenger who moved very quickly. Mercury behaves symmetrically.
We also opened a window for satellite observation. The nights are slowly becoming shorter and brighter, and everything that flies over our heads at an altitude of 100-200 km is within reach of sunlight. Since mid-May, our sky will again be able to observe the International Space Station, the brightest point moving from west to east.
In this corner of the world, the Milky Way is looking its best before the end of the sidereal night, around 2 a.m. above the southeast horizon. Just as a Muslim must go to Mecca at least once in his life, amateur astronomy must go to Bieszczady at least once in their life, and preferably once a year, because the view of the Milky Way is the most beautiful there.
Is there anything you are waiting for?
Indeed, I am a winter creature, and spring and summer are my time of rest. I will begin my journey again in the fall, to the North Pole, where I will catch the twilights. Interestingly, when I was talking about the predictability of the sky, the aurora borealis is a cure-all for a certain frequency of astronomical phenomena. Every twilight night looks completely different and it’s impossible to predict how this will happen.
Next year, on April 20 to be exact, we will also have a total solar eclipse, incl. in Australia. I am waiting for it. Eclipse, next to twilight, is my second biggest passion. Only when I watch auroras a few dozen times a year have I noticed eclipses occur in my entire life for just over 7 minutes. So every second of this phenomenon is of great value to me. The eclipse lasts for a very short time: from 1 second to – at least in theory – 7 minutes 13 seconds. In Shanghai, where I was too, it lasted 5 minutes 50 seconds, but was blocked by rain clouds, which unfortunately happens. Hence the choice of Australia, for 14 years in this part of the world and during this time the sky has been clear and I abide by it. A solar eclipse is the most amazing astronomical phenomenon you can see. This is the greatest celebration for me.
What do we need to monitor the sky? What equipment should we stock?
There is a legend that if we want to observe the sky, we must have a decent telescope. Paradoxically, however, people who do not have monitoring experience and buy such a device are doomed to fail. Because like any other tool, we need to know how to use it. If we do not have this knowledge, the telescope becomes useless.
When we start our adventure with astronomy, we can easily make observations with the naked eye. I can assure you that we will observe many interesting phenomena. In the spring we can admire the beautiful moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus as well as the Milky Way and its satellites. Being away from the city lights, we can also see some objects, the so-called deep sky, that is, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. With a bit of luck, you can also see the northern lights from Poland. If we really want to use the equipment, we should reach for ordinary binoculars. While observing, it is also helpful to have a reclining chair and a blanket or sleeping bag with you. Especially since we have to devote at least an hour to the observation.
Even if we didn’t need equipment, we would need a huge dose of knowledge. Where do you get it?
Fascinating communities gather around astronomy. On Facebook we will find at least a few groups with people with similar passions, problems, and goals as ours. These people are eager to share their knowledge and experience.
It is also worth reaching for literature or film that ignites the imagination and stimulates questioning and action. On the occasion of Space Day, which falls on May 21, it is worth reaching out, among others, about the wonderful “Ad Astra” and “Proxima” that will be available on Filmbox Premium HD.
You can also see science creators or astronomy bloggers on the web. I also showed years ago that astronomy is not rocket science, and sometimes it is enough to look at the right part of the sky to see something interesting.
Provided there are no clouds, because I understand that this is what astronomy lovers wish?
Definitely yes – clear skies. Unfortunately, we live in a part of the world where weather is not our ally and often goes beyond our plans. We enjoy every clear night. We, astronomy lovers, also need a reduced tariff at work or at school, at least in the early hours of the day. It also helps to get a discount on coffee at a nearby coffee shop (laughs).