Monday, March 8, 2010

The Night Sky

One of my loves is astronomy. It continually amazes me to look to the heavens at night and see the stars and constellations, planets and their moons, comets, meteorites--there is so much to see! Even without a telescope or even binoculars, most of us can look up on a clear night and see the stars which have been there for generations. The constancy of it gives me great comfort.

But--I'm not writing about it here and now just to amuse myself. I bring up the stars because right now, from March 3-16, around the world, a program is underway to determine how well we can see the stars. Here's an article with an overview of the program, called "GLOBE at Night," from one of my favorite magazines, Sky and Telescope.

It's quite simple, and ingeniously so at that. Anyone in the world with an internet connected computer can participate. All a participant must do is to see the night sky and simply find the constellation Orion (there are diagrams and instructions for finding him on the webpage, link below) and determine his or her location by coordinates (several websites make this simple). Then on a clear night, each observer notes how many stars are visible in Orion as compared to some simple diagrams provided by the GLOBE at Night program.

The GLOBE at Night website explains everything quite well, and there are even student packets which can be used at schools to make the program a valuable educational experience. There are diagrams, etc. on the GLOBE at Night website, but here are a few photos to start you out. First, Orion is the star pattern to the left of the tree--

Below is a much longer exposure of Orion; see the distinctive 3 stars in a line, right around the middle? That's Orion's Belt. The large orangish star to the upper left is Orion's right shoulder, also named Betelgeuse.

And this is a little drawing I though would help illustrate how you get a warrior out of that star pattern:

So, will anyone help out with a cool, global program to measure the brightness of the stars? It really only takes a few minutes... and maybe you'll learn a little bit about the stars and the night sky which can stay with you forever!


  1. I absolutely love the stars too. It is great to drive in the middle of the desert where there is no light at all, camp out and star gaze. Love it!

  2. Orion was the first constellation I was able to 'see' when I was little. Don't have much interest in looking at the sky in the summer . . . just so long as I can find Polaris I won't get lost. 'Course, what do I do when it's cloudy?



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