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Let’s go loony!

Join International Observe the Moon Night skywatchers at Vassar or Mohonk next Saturday

by Frances Marion Platt
September 29, 2011 11:34 AM | 0 0 comments | 699 699 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ah, early autumn: my favorite time of year. If you’re a regular reader of Bob Berman’s “Night Sky” column in this publication, you’ve been reminded many times that the Hudson Valley’s season of mostly overcast skies does not begin – at least statistically speaking – until November. While glorious October endures, we can all look forward to a fair share of crisp, low-humidity, bright-blue-sky days in which to enjoy the changing foliage.

But what about when those blue skies fade to black, as the season of long nights creeps upon us? Let’s not forget to take advantage of a dry night’s opportunity for stargazing. It shouldn’t be too cold yet – and with luck, it will be clear enough – for us to join in with millions of amateur astronomers across our home planet on International Observe the Moon Night, which takes place next Saturday, October 8.

The International Observe the Moon Night team consists of scientists, educators and Moon enthusiasts from government, non-profit organizations and businesses throughout the US and across the globe who have created an organized opportunity for people to take notice of the Moon’s beauty and share that experience with one another. The event also seeks to focus public attention on the latest and greatest scientific discoveries about Earth’s nearest neighbor.

Two local gatherings have been announced for this year’s International Observe the Moon Night. At Vassar Farm on the Vassar College campus in Poughkeepsie, the Mid-Hudson Astronomy Club will present an evening of lunar observation and education for all ages, guided by local amateur astronomers. Telescopes will be provided by the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association. Suitable for all ages, the event begins at 7:30 p.m.; participants should meet near the large red barn across from the parking area by the community gardens. Closed-toed shoes and long pants are suggested attire. To RSVP or for additional information, contact Keri VanCamp, Field Station and Ecological Preserve manager, by e-mail at kevancamp@vassar.edu or by phone at (845) 437-7414.

Also on Saturday, October 8 – in this case from 7 to 9 p.m. – David Rossetter and other members of the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association will gather at the Mohonk Preserve for a presentation on the Moon and astronomy, followed by telescope observations of the Moon, stars, and Jupiter, which is the closest it will be to Earth until 2022. This is a free indoor/outdoor program. Children aged 8 and up are welcome, and must always be accompanied by an adult. Reservations are required. Call (845) 255-0919 to make reservations and get the exact meeting location. For more information about this event, visit http://midhudsonastro.org.

But what if the night turns out to be rainy or cloudy? No matter; you can still commune in spirit and mind with other lunatics at an interactive website called Moon Zoo. Citizen skywatchers are needed to lend an eye to the rather subjective science of classifying features that have been photographed on the Moon’s surface. Scientists want to know your estimation of which out of a selection of pictured craters contains the most boulders, for example. There are just too many of these moonscape photos for professional astronomers to evaluate them all; so in the spirit of the time-honored practice of naming new comets, asteroids and other sky features after their discoverers, even if they’re amateurs, you too can have input into what science thinks about the Moon. Visit www.moonzoo.org on October 8 – or anytime, really – and help expand our understanding of the universe.

For more information on International Observe the Moon Night itself, including a list of hundreds of public skywatching events scheduled for that night all around the world, visit http://observethemoonnight.org.

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