Flintstone Stargazing

October 1, 2007

Great Worldwide Star Count starts tonight! Please participate.

Filed under: astronomy — Tags: , , , — Ed @ 1:11 pm

The Great Worldwide Star Count starts tonight. This is a great opportunity to get kids involved in looking at the night sky and actually helps the science of astronomy. If you didn’t see my earlier post on this, the Great Worldwide Star Count is an effort to map light polution around the world. Basically what they are asking people to do is to go to a web site and follow these instructions. You don’t have to know anything about astronomy – as a matter of fact you may learn something!

To participate, you’ll be going outside where you can see the sky an hour after sunset. You’ll look almost straight up and compare what you see with the diagrams that the web site provides. You don’t actually have to count stars – you just have to make an effort to figure out which of the magnitude charts looks most like what you see. Also, just from my own personal experience, don’t just quickly walk outside and look up. Spend a few minutes allowing your eyes to adjust to the dark. Then make an effort to see the fainter stars in the constellation. Sometimes, you can see stars better by looking to the side of them since most people’s eyes have more sensitivity outside of the middle of the field of view. You’ll log your observations on their web site afterward and that’s it!

This is also a great event to get kids involved in. They can participate just like adults can (as a matter of fact, their eyes may be better than adults). I’m planning on having my kids out with me tonight observing and will post some pictures on the site.

Tonight’s viewing conditions look very promising right now and so it would be a great night for you to step outside and strike a blow for Science™ or something. And just for reference, last night at my house in Flintstone, GA I was able to easily see 5th magnitude stars and maybe a few beyond that. It was beautiful outside.

Finally, there’s nothing preventing you from staying outside longer and looking at the heavens. In my part of the country, there are several other things you can obseve right now. Jupiter is the bright star in the south-southwest early in the evening. The Big Dipper is low in the north-northwest after sunset. Sagittarius is in the south and looks like a teapot. Since the moon doesn’t rise until late, if your skies are dark, you should be able to see the milky way running from Sagittarius in the south toward the north-northeast across the entire sky. Last night it was really beautiful. As a bonus for going out early, the ISS will be visible in the south at 8:17pm. 

We plan on having a lot of fun and hope you do too. If you participate, please leave a comment here with what you saw and did. I’d love to hear about it.


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