Beauty of night sky needs preservation

By Wayne Harris-Wyrick Published: March 4, 2008
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/> There are many steps you can take to help reduce light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association offers tips, information, data and suggestions to help persuade others to join the effort.

Another organization is asking people to participate in an hourlong experiment later this month to demonstrate the power of reduced light pollution. "Lights Out America” began as an effort to get San Francisco residents to turn out all their lights for one hour on a specific evening so that the whole city could experience the beauty of the night sky.

It was so successful that it is being attempted as a worldwide program, based on a successful event that began last year in Sydney, Australia, called Earth Hour. Organizers asked all residents of Sydney to turn off all lights for a one-hour period. Originally, Earth Hour was a program designed to draw attention to the problem of global warming. Light pollution plays a role in global warming by wasting energy as it puts light where it does no good. What started as local events in San Francisco and Sydney have become a worldwide event occurring March 29 this year. Details can be found online at www.earthhour.org.

Help protect the night sky and enjoy a sight like no other.

Sky notes
•Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday. The time jumps from 1:59 a.m. in one minute to 3 a.m. as we "spring ahead” one hour.

Spring itself officially begins at 11:48 p.m. March 19. On that date, also known as the vernal equinox, day and night are of equal length, and the sun will rise due east and set due west. The full moon for March occurs two days later, March 21. The equinox and the succeeding full moon together officially determine the date of Easter. By church rule, Easter occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This is a complex rule, but it assures that Easter occurs in spring, just as it is supposed to.

•Two-million, two-hundred-thousand years ago, a beam of light left a star in the Andromeda galaxy. Over eons, that light beam has crossed vast stretches of the cosmos, by the stars and through the gas clouds of the Milky Way galaxy and on to Earth. In the same stretch of time, humans have changed physically, mentally and psychologically, preparing for the day the beam of light would arrive and we could study and understand it. Come see the main feature in the Kirkpatrick Planetarium's Star Theater, "Lightyears From Andromeda.” Learn what the light beam "saw” on the way to Earth and how we have changed waiting for it. For show times and more information, call 602-3761.

•The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at 6:45 p.m. March 14. The public is welcome, and admission is free.

Planet visibility report: Mars and Saturn are the only planets to grace the evening sky. Jupiter rises around 3 a.m. and shines brightly in the predawn sky. Venus and Mercury are both low in the eastern sky before sunrise, but both are difficult to see in the morning twilight. New moon occurs March 7 and full moon is March 21, just before Easter.

Wayne Harris-Wyrick is director of the Kirkpatrick Planetarium at Science Museum Oklahoma. Questions or comments may be e-mailed to wwyrick@scienceuseumok.org.




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