Astronomy Day

¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending April 20, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013 is Astronomy Day! Astronomers and astronomy clubs around the world will hold special events to turn more people on to the stars, planets, and other wonders in the sky. Some will hold events before or after Saturday to accommodate their own schedules or special circumstances. Now’s the time to find out what’s going on in your area.

Not all Astronomy Day events are at night. In Moline, Illinois, the Popular Astronomy Club will meet at the Moline Public Library from 2pm to 5pm. A guest speaker, hands-on craft making exhibits, and displays featuring items on loan from NASA will be inside. Those displays include a moon rock and a space glove. Kids can watch a “cosmic cook” make a comet with dry ice. A professor from the University of Iowa will talk about aurorae. Outside, if the weather permits, the club will let people safely see the sun through its mobile observatory. As the sun goes down, it’s off to the nearby Niabi Zoo for a few hours of night sky tours.

In Michigan, the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society will spend all day firing up imaginations with demonstrations and talks about Mars. The events at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum are free. The club really encourages families with children to attend. Programs will cover the history of Mars observations from the illusory canals that inspired stories about Martians to recent rovers on Mars to how we might get people to the Red Planet. Then, at night, the club goes to the Kalamazoo Nature Center to show people the planets and stars—weather permitting of course.

In some places, astronomers will talk about the importance of preserving the night sky from the ever growing assault by overdone outdoor lighting. Carefully choosing the light fixtures that go outside your home or business can help astronomers everywhere. Many carelessly chosen fixtures shine more than half the light into the sky. Not only does that ruin someone’s view of the stars, it wastes a lot of electricity. Since so much coal is burned to produce electricity, it contributes unnecessarily to the greenhouse gas problem too. To astronomers who want to preserve dark skies, Astronomy Day is an early start for Earth Day.

You can find out what Astronomy Day events are going on in your area by contacting any local astronomy clubs you know of or looking it up online. If you don’t happen to be in an area where any events are planned or you can’t work them into your schedule, you can still spread the word about astronomy and why you like it. You can probably get together a few friends who also like stargazing and planet watching and organize an event for next year!