On Saturday, Sept. 18, people around the planet will be gathering for the first-ever International Observe the Moon Night, a global event meant to get people excited about lunar science and exploration.
The whole thing started with a national moon night in the U.S. last year, spurred by the activities of two NASA moon missions: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The LRO launched on June 18, 2009, and settled into orbit around the moon on June 23. The orbiter was carrying LCROSS, which got shot into the moon’s south pole last Oct. 9 as part of a search for water ice in shadowy craters.
Since then, lunar exploration has really gone international. Data from India’s lost Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter and Japan’s terminated Kaguya moon probe are still offering scientific riches (boosting those countries’ excitement over moon exploration). And China is planning to launch its second lunar probe this October, possibly followed by a human mission to the moon in 2017.
The international astronomy-advocacy group Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is partnering with NASA to bring the excitement of observing and learning about Earth’s closest neighbor in space to the public worldwide. For details, see:
Come See the Moon
Sky-watchers here at home can enjoy Observe the Moon Night at any of several events scheduled for Sept. 18. The “Harvest Moon” will be in a lovely waxing gibbous phase, offering a chance to see plenty of surface features brought into sharp relief by shadows. Viewers should be able to get a good look at features like the Tycho crater, with its deep depression surrounded by bright rays, dominating the moon’s southern face. And higher magnifications will reveal mountain ranges, dark lava fields, and rippling ridges.
L.A.-area public viewing opportunities include:
WESTCHESTER STAR PARTY
On Saturday, Sept. 18, 7-10 p.m., the public is invited to an evening of astronomy in the parking lot of the Christian Science Church, 7855 Alverstone Ave., Westchester, at the corner of 79th St. High-quality telescopes will provide beautiful views of the moon, planet Jupiter, stars, and nebulae. Children are especially welcomed, and you may bring your own telescope if you have one. There will be a special focus on learning all about the moon—including why it looks the way it does and where the Apollo astronauts landed. In case of clouds, the event will be rescheduled for Oct. 16. Questions? Call or email star party coordinator Bob Eklund, (310) 216-5947, [email protected].
Saturday, Sept. 18, Public Star Party with telescopes on Griffith Observatory sidewalks for viewing sun, moon, planets and stars. 2:00-9:45 p.m. Free admission.
On Saturday evening, Sept. 18, telescopes provided by the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers will be set up on the lawn for viewing, and you can also tour the astronomy exhibits in the Library’s Dibner Hall. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Price per person: Huntington members: $12. non-members: $15. Children 2 and under free. Tickets: 626-405-2128.
PACIFIC ASTRONOMY AND TELESCOPE SHOW (PATS)
The Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show (PATS), Sept. 18 and 19 at the Pasadena Convention Center, will have star (plus sun and moon)- gazing for the public. Workshops and special events will be offered, and manufacturers of astronomical equipment will be on hand to show their wares. There will also be a tour to Mount Wilson Observatory. More information about PATS is at www.rtmcastronomyexpo.org/PATS.htm.
You can meet Bob Eklund at: www.bobeklund.com – or at the Westchester star party!