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September 22, 2012

The first night of autumn seems like a great time for a little skywatching. And in fact, an international group of astronomy enthusiasts has set up a network of events to help others do just that. And they have a specific target in mind: the Moon.

The project is called International Observe the Moon Night. It’s designed to help others become more aware of the night sky by focusing on its most prominent resident. Observatories, schools, planetariums, and others are hosting Moon-watching events all across the country and the world.

And there’s plenty to look at. The Moon is at first quarter today, so sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way. And the Sun angle is pretty low, so mountains and craters produce long shadows, helping them stand out when you look at the Moon through binoculars or a telescope. And the Moon stands above a prominent summer constellation — teapot-shaped Sagittarius.

Of course, you don’t need any help at all to appreciate the beauty of the Moon or the rest of the night sky — just a safe, comfortable skywatching spot and a clear view of the heavens — not just tonight, but every night of the year.

And as we mentioned earlier, today is the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere. The Sun crosses the equator from north to south, bringing the promise of shorter days and longer, cooler nights ahead — good conditions for enjoying the beauty of the night sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

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