An Interview With Adam Kirk From LoveTheNightSky.com
Published on July 2, 2021
Adam Kirk is an amateur astronomer and the owner of lovethenightsky.com. Two years ago, he created a virtual astronomy club, a place for budding astronomers from around the world can learn more about the night sky and improve their observational skills. Today, he’s kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions about his virtual club as well as his own astronomical journey.
How did you get into stargazing?
“Like many young boys, I was fascinated with the planets from a very young age, maybe six or seven. My mum brought me a cheap and nasty Tasco telescope when I was still in primary school and I loved it! Even a tiny, wobbly scope with poor eyepieces shows you more detail on the Moon’s surface and more stars than you’ve ever seen before. I was hooked from that moment, and when I saw Saturn’s rings for the first time, there was no turning back!”
What’s the hardest aspect of this hobby?
“For a middle-aged man with a job and family living in Britain, it has to be the antisocial nature of it. I still find getting outside in the cold for many hours when I could be watching the telly in front of the fire (or asleep in bed) the most difficult obstacle to conquer. I have to remind myself that I always enjoy it when I do it – and get lost in the view very quickly.”
What’s your favourite celestial target?
“I love splitting double stars generally, but I know that’s not a target. In terms of what I keep going back to, it’s a toss-up between the Pleiades and the Moon. I struggle to think of a more beautiful and pleasing sight than the seven sisters, even one of my boys (who was seven at the time) just said “wow” when he saw it for the first time, which sums it up for me. With the Moon, I enjoy seeing trickier views each time I look. It’s a great challenge and I figure that since it’s around as often as not, I should enjoy looking at it.”
What inspired you to start LNS?
“There are two sides to this. Firstly, I had learned to build websites and was really enjoying it. I’d dabbled with a couple of topics but never really got into them. Secondly, I was frustrated by how difficult it was to track down useful information about astronomy online, more often than not you had to either ask the right question in a forum or scan old replies for ages to find the relevant answer. One morning in the shower, I thought “why don’t you build a website about astronomy to answer the questions you keep asking yourself”.
That was six years ago and I still get a great buzz from researching and publishing information about astronomy – especially when new astronomers email me to say I helped them understand something, or find an object, that they’d struggled with before.”
Tell us about the Virtual Astronomy Club
The Virtual Astronomy Club was born from a reader of Love the Night Sky who emailed me to say they couldn’t get to their local astronomy club because of their life situation and that it would be great if I offered a Virtual Astronomy Club that they could be a member of.
It’s now almost two years since it launched and it has over 300 members. Every month, I provide detailed guides to what we can see of the Moon and planets, including star maps for each hour of the night. I also do the same for any special events, such as eclipses, meteor showers, and conjunctions.
The most popular part of the monthly offering though is the observation challenges. Each month I provide three detailed guides to finding a particular object or group of objects. It might be a cluster of galaxies, double stars in a particular constellation, or a tricky nebula. Each challenge has background information about the object, a detailed guide to finding it – including downloadable, annotated star maps – and a guide as to what you should look for through the eyepiece. Here’s an example challenge from June 2021.
I’ve gathered up the historic challenges into an archive of over fifty that members can access any time.
Also inside the VAC is my Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy course, the Lunar 100 challenge, and, coming later this year, constellation tours which will include guides to the best deep-sky objects to see in a particular constellation.
The virtual astronomy club has a wealth of information about the night sky. Ideal for beginners and advanced stargazers!
What’s next for Love the Night Sky?
The big thing going on behind the scenes is a redesign of the website. The look it has now is one I created five years ago, and I am certainly no designer! I’ve just signed off on the rebranding designs and the new look should be live by the autumn – I can’t wait!
The most visible thing to current readers is the addition of two astronomers to the writing team who are busy putting together guides to some of the best Messier objects visible. I’m really keen to keep LNS true to its roots, which is helping backyard astronomers get more success with their observations.