starry night skies
Be a considerate neighbor: Reduce nighttime glare.
Shield all your outside lights downward (or turn them off completely)
and enjoy the beautiful, starry night sky.
Stargazing in the Manzano Mountains
The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) and the Sandia Ranger
District will co-host an evening of free public stargazing in the
Manzanos on Saturday, August 18 and September 8, at Oak Flat Picnic
The dark skies of the East Mountains and the large telescopes
of TAAS astronomers together provide great views of planets, as
well as more elusive deep-sky objects such as galaxies, nebulae,
and star clusters.
Observing begins at sunset, weather permitting, and is suitable
for all ages. Picnic facilities are available for those who would
like to come early, and adjacent parking is available. Alcoholic
beverages and pets are not allowed in the telescope viewing area.
To get there, take NM Highway 337 nine miles south of the Tijeras
exit on I-40, and follow the signs to Oak Flat and Juniper Loop.
For information and a map, visit www.taas.org or call 254-TAAS.
When visiting the web site, click on "Archives," then
"TAAS at Oak Flat Picnic Grounds June 2003," then "Click
here for a schedule of TAAS Oak Flat events for 2004."
Looking South Southwest, August 21 at 9:00 p.m.
August night sky
This month features a great meteor shower and a lunar eclipse.
But first, I want to address an email I received about outdoor lighting
and its effect when it shines into the neighbor’s bedroom.
BAD NEIGHBOR = BAD SLEEP
CS writes, “My neighbors are unfortunately inconsiderate and
leave their front door light on all night… it also shines
into the room where my daughters sleep.”
I am no doctor, nor am I a sleep expert, but I know how annoying
it can be to those that just can’t sleep with light in the
room. Lack of sleep can cause problems like lapses in concentration,
poor performance, and just plain falling asleep at the wrong time.
That can be dangerous and over time, it can cause health problems.
Blackout shades are available and expensive. My wife and I have
found that, if all else fails, an extra layer clothespinned over
the existing shades on the offending window, like a black trash
sack or sheet, helps, depending upon how bright the light is. The
best way to handle things is to nicely ask the neighbor to be polite
and turn off the light, or at least put a good shield on it to direct
the light toward the ground and away from the window.
The brochure on the International Dark Sky Association’s
website called “How to Talk to Your Neighbor Who Has a Bad
Light” can help you get the message through. The link from
their website is www.uwsp.edu/cnr/uwexlakes/humanimpact/neighborbrochure.pdf.
Other pamphlets about good neighbor lighting and light shielding
can be found at www.darksky.org
in their resource section. Or finally, hand the neighbor a copy
of my last rant from the Signpost. Good luck in getting
your dark back.
Get out your calendar and circle August 12. Why? The peak of the
Perseid Meteor shower is predicted for the evening of 12th and the
morning of the 13th. That just happens to coincide with the New
Moon—that means darker skies. Bill Cook of NASA’s Meteoroid
Environment Office is predicting “a great show.” His
estimates are for one or two meteors per minute.
The Perseids originate from the dust trail left behind by the
comet Swift-Tuttle. Even though the comet is far out in the solar
system, Earth passes through this dusty trail each August. The bits
that we see streaking through our atmosphere are no bigger than
grains of sand, but at 132,000 miles per hour, they burn up in a
The show should begin around 9:00 p.m. MDT on Sunday. Look for
grazers that just skip through the upper atmosphere like a rock
on a pond. They will be few and far between, but if you are lucky
enough to see one, they should be long, slow, and colorful. Even
one is worth the effort. As the constellation Perseus climbs higher
in the sky at about 2:00 a.m., you should be able to see dozens
of fiery meteors flitting by each hour. Even though the brighter
ones can be seen under city lights, your best bet is to get outside
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon slides into the Earth’s
shadow. That means that an eclipse can only occur very near to the
time of a full moon, when the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides
of the Earth. Eclipses in general are somewhat rare because everything
must line up just right. This year has been special because we already
have had a lunar eclipse this year in February. The next lunar eclipse
will be on August 28 and New Mexico will see a total eclipse. The
whole affair starts as the Moon begins to enter the penumbra, the
partial part of the shadow, at 2:51 a.m. MDT. The total eclipse,
the portion in the full shadow, runs from 3:52 a.m. to 5:23 a.m.
The full moon occurs at 4:35 a.m. during the eclipse.
NIGHT SKY CONFERENCE
For those interested in preserving our night sky, you will want
to attend the first annual Southwest Night Sky Conference on September
13 - 15 in Taos. The program is hosted by the New Mexico Heritage
Preservation Alliance and is cosponsored by the International Dark
Sky Association. The brochure is available at www.nmheritage.org/files/Confemrev.pdf
for more information.
THE PLANETS AND
• Mercury is visible in the east early mornings from 5:00
a.m. to 6:00 a.m. the first week of the month.
• Venus will be the morning star shining brightly in the east
the last week of August.
• Mars shows itself earlier each night, rising about 1:00
a.m. Look for the waxing crescent Moon and Mars in the east about
an hour before sunrise on the 7th. Mars is to the lower right of
the Moon, Aldebaran is below the Moon and Capella can be found to
the left of the Moon. Near the horizon will be Orion with its bright
stars Beletgeuse and Rigel.
• Jupiter will be in the south southwestern sky at sunset.
Watch for a conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter on the 21st. Jupiter
will be seven degrees above the Moon. Antares, the heart of the
Scorpion, will be between the two.
• Saturn is setting with the Sun and will be out of sight.
• The new moon is on the 12th at 5:02 p.m. and the full moon
is on the 28th. Lunar apogee (farthest from the Earth) at 251,419
miles happens on the 25th and lunar perigee (nearest to Earth) at
226,287 miles is on the 30th.
If you have a question or comment for Charlie,
you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.