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Daniel McVey, courtesy EarthSky.org
In a dark sky, you can see that the starlit band of the Milky Way runs behind Shaula and Lesath in the Tail of Scorpius.

EYES TO THE SKY: Spring astronomy, skygazing wonders, Dark Sky Week begins

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By Monday, Mar 18, 2019 Learning

March 18 – 31, 2019

Image courtesy EarthSky.org

Mount Washington — Everyday movements of the planets, stars, moon and Sun, through day and night, are “aha” moments when we remark the changes of their positions in the sky and in relation to the horizon over time. That said, this week we will observe two milestones. On the 20th at 5:58 p.m., the Sun arrives at vernal equinox, when sunrise is due east, sunset due west, and there is equal day and night. Coincidentally, the moon reaches full phase a few hours later, at 9:43 p.m. Celebrate the astronomical arrival of spring and the Full Sap Moon by observing sundown and moonrise as day ends and night begins this Wednesday. Moonrise in the east is at 6:50 p.m. opposite the sunset at 7:07 p.m. The moon may appear particularly large: It is at perigee – closest to Earth in its orbit.

Rise to the occasion next morning when sunrise is at 6:59 a.m. and the perigean moon sets opposite at 7:38 a.m. Depending on the skyline at your location, i.e. hilly or true horizon, Sun and moon may appear and disappear, respectively, at close to the same time. Take special note of the Sun’s position on the horizon at both sunset and sunrise so as to mark the cardinal points as a reference for observing our star rise further north of east and set further north of west every day until summer solstice on June 21.

The seasons result from the Earth’s rotational axis tilting 23.5 degrees out of perpendicular to the ecliptic – or Earth’s orbital plane.

Considering that humans have monkeyed with the time of day to the effect that Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is not time according to the Sun, we might as well enjoy being fooled. The dark of morning has returned, as sunrise is close to 7 o’clock EDT the week of the 18th, instead of 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Without the extra effort required to be outdoors before 5 a.m., early dawn is around 5:45 a.m. the week of the 18th. See a wonderful string of morning stars and planets, along with the great Scorpion. Refer to the diagrams. Although Venus rises around 5:30 a.m. where there is a view to the horizon, the brilliant planet did not appear as a blazing beacon until after 6 a.m. at my best lookout to the east-southeast.

Image courtesy EarthSky.org

With spring, we are called upon to awaken to our role in caring for planet Earth. Stargazing brings enchantment and grounding to people of all ages around the world. The darker the sky, the deeper the experience. Dark skies are a natural resource that is being polluted and destroyed. There are dark skies in many Berkshire locations, but they are threatened by light pollution. The plight of Berkshire skies depends on our voices. Please read and act in response to the following news from our own Massachusetts Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association.

“The Massachusetts dark sky bill is gaining momentum and we need your help in getting it passed. See https://www.boston.com/news/policy/2019/03/07/massachusetts-dark-sky-light-pollution-bill for an excellent summary of the reasons why we need such a bill and what the bill would do. Here is what we need YOU to do, today: Send an email addressed to both of the chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE): Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov and Thomas.Golden@mahouse.gov Tell them you support these two bills: H.2858 and S.1937 and request they vote favorably. Write a specific reason — anything from preserving the night sky to protecting human health or nocturnal animals. Sign your full name and the town you live in — that’s it! If you know another group or individual that would be interested, forward this request — now is the time!

Resources

https://www.boston.com/news/policy/2019/03/07/massachusetts-dark-sky-light-pollution-bill

International Dark Sky Association – https://www.darksky.org/

International Dark Sky Association Massachusetts Chapter – https://idamass.wordpress.com

Opportunities to participate

Globe at Night – https://www.globeatnight.org/

April 6, 11a.m. to 4 p.m. Berkshire Earth Expo and Cooler Community Challenge, Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires, 16 Melville St., Pittsfield – Berkshire Earth Expo is a community fair focused on energy efficiency, climate resilience, dark skies, and the protection of nature and our health.

April 6 & 7, NEAF – Northeast Astronomy Forum – http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html


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