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Friday, March 27, 2009


Earth Hour - Time for Some Astronomy

The western horizon as seen at 8:30 pm (local time) Saturday in Australia (click to embiggen).

Earth Hour is upon us! Various city councils, businesses and local citizens will be turning off their lights from 8:30 - 9:30 pm this Saturday (28 March) in this global action to raise awareness about climate change.

For suburbanites, the sky will be darker than usual, and rather than huddle inside reading by the light of torches, why not do some astronomy?

At 8:30 pm the beautiful Pleiades cluster will be lowering to the western horizon, above that is Taurus and the "V" shape of the Hyades cluster, then above that is Orion and his belt. To the south the Southern Cross is clearly visible, with the beautiful star fields and clusters of Carina and Vela (the keel and sail of the ship Argos) are well above the horizon. If you have binoculars, then these fields are georgous to behold.

Look for satellites going over; Genisis II, Various cosmos rockets and delta stages are going across the sky from 8:30 to 9:30, why not pop over to Heavens Above and get satellite predictions for your location? There is a good Iridium flare around 7:30 pm (but that's not part of Earth hour).

If you have a telescope, small or large, why not invite friends over for an impromptu star party? If you have a small telescope, why not set it up on the footpath for some footpath astronomy and show the sky to passers by? Especially Saturn at this time. If you have a large telescope, why not try looking for the shadow transit of Titan?

So come Saturday night, why not show some support for climate change action AND take advantage of suburban dark skies?

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