Many years ago my fate was set on seeing a little known arty farty film called Star Wars. From then on I was either going to be a Wookie or an amateur geek. Past childhood, I shed my excessively hirsute outer shell with a mixture of Sellotape and Immac, therefore sealing my geekdom destiny.
It took several years to hone my talents with a mixture of obscure indie music, bad haircuts and copious amounts of Doctor Who. For those wishing to explore the delightful world of geekdom, without resorting to these extreme measures, astronomy is a good way to start!
1. Start with your eyes – no expensive gadgets required (unless you are a shopaholic at Specsavers). Learn the basic constellations using a Planisphere and/or Star Map book. Unfortunately it doesn’t show you the location of Tatooine so I can’t hook up with Han Solo in that jumpin’ bar in Mos Eisley, but a girl can dream…
2. Join an Astronomical Group – there are hundreds across the country and some are better than others. My first one had great talks, but was full of pompous and officious morons. The second one is disorganised, small, and the talks are not often so fascinating, but they provide beginners talks, the people are welcoming and – well let’s be honest – basically they’re not a load of nobbers.
3. Get a couple of useful and free apps on your phone – a red torch light (Roxanne!) as normal light ruins your night vision for at least 20-30 mins, so get in the dark and stay there! Also Google Sky Map is pretty good and Astronomy Picture of the Day is always inspirational, even if it just makes you lie in bed all day crying at the beauty and teeny-tinyness of this ol’ planet in the big scheme of things.
4. Even though, quite obviously, Sir, Lord and all conquering Professor Brian Cox is every thinking woman’s bit of jam on a crumpet, do not (repeat DO NOT!) admit that he is a hottie. Just watch his Wonders of the Solar System / Wonders of the Universe and for the hardcores amongst you, Stargazing Live every Spring must be observed (geddit!?) without drooling. And that goes double for you men!!
5. Don’t try to get into something you don’t like for the sake of geekness. I tried this to spectacular effect with Lord of the Rings and nearly got lynched in the cinema. My crime? Forgetting I was in the cinema, I said “oh for god’s sake, just die!!” at the (extended) death throes of Sean Bean as a beardy arrow dodger.
And as for the nursery rhyme we started with – it’s pants! Stars don’t actually twinkle, they only look like they do when looking through our atmosphere. So put that in your pipe (nebula) and smoke it…