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.
Looking toward the western sky
Looking toward the eastern sky
Yes, it’s that time of year again where I try and remind everyone
about outdoor lighting. The view of our night sky is fading, and
outdoor lighting is to blame. From many locations in New Mexico,
especially near cities, the Milky Way is invisible and forgotten.
The major constellations and the outline of stars that make them
recognizable have faded into the glow of the sky.
Take Leo, in the western sky about 11:00 p.m. this month. From
the cities, you may have a chance to see Regulus, the alpha, (brightest)
star in Leo at magnitude 1.3, and perhaps even Denebola, the beta
star. If you live away from Rio Rancho and Bernalillo or the Hollywood
Casino, you may be able to find Zosma and Algieba, the next two
brightest stars in Leo.
Now try and find Aquila, the Eagle, on the western Horizon about
10:00 p.m. Altair is the brightest star and should be visible since
it’s a bright 0.77 magnitude star. The next brightest star
is Alshain. Good luck finding this third magnitude star from a city.
The rest of Aquila is so dim, only those far away from city lights
could make out its shape.
If you can look south about 10:00 p.m., over the glow of Albuquerque,
you can most likely see Spica in Virgo forty degrees above the horizon
at a bright 0.95 magnitude, and Antares, the heart of Scorpius,
at a hefty 0.96 magnitude, twenty-two degrees above the horizon.
Now try and find Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpius, the three
stars that top to bottom form the arms of the scorpion. Maybe from
the outskirts of town these will be visible.
In the north, from the city, is the Big Dipper, a part of Ursa
Major. It may be visible. Dubhe is its alpha star at 1.79 magnitude;
Merak is the next brightest in the dipper portion at magnitude 2.37.
These two stars form the pouring side of the dipper. At 10:00 p.m.,
Dubhe will be forty-eight degrees above the horizon in the west-northwest.
In the handle, from the dipper out, are Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid.
But with light nearby, finding the rest of the Big Bear, the animal
that gives its name to the constellation, is tough. Look for Muscida,
Tania Australis, and Talitha.
Now find Polaris, the North Star, if you can at 2.02 magnitude.
It belongs to Ursa Minor, or sometimes it’s described as the
Little Dipper. Can you find Kocab in the dipper part due north,
about fifty degrees up? What about Pherkad just above and to the
I can name whole constellations most people will never see until
they get away from the light pollution in our skies. Try Camelopardalis,
Chepheus, Lynx, and Lacerta in the north; Leo Minor, Coma Berenices,
and Crater in the west; Norma in the south; and Delphinus, Scutum,
most of Lyra, Vulpecula, and Sagitta in the east.
So, now for the rant: Turn off your outdoor lights when you aren’t
using them to come and go from your home. Point the lights you use
down toward the ground and shield them so the light source (the
bulb or filament), can’t be seen above the horizontal plane
at the bottom of the fixture. Encourage business to do the same.
Back-lighted signs should have a black background with colored or
white lettering. Parking lot lights need to shine down and be properly
shielded. And, casinos, do you really need to shine spotlights into
the sky or have glaring light boards along the roads? And, finally,
use the least amount of light to do the job. Not only will you help
slow the loss of the night sky, but you just might save some energy
and money at the same time. Now, go outside and try and find all
of the stars I mentioned this month. Happy hunting. For more information
on preserving our view of the stars, see the International Dark-Sky
Association’s website at www.darksky.org.
THE PLANETS AND THE MOON
• Mercury is low in the west just after sunset. On the 15th,
look to the lower left of the thin crescent moon using binoculars
about thirty minutes after sunset. Mercury will be hiding in the
twilight of the setting sun.
• Venus is the brightest thing in the sky, except for the
Sun and the Moon. Look west any evening, even before sunset. Venus
will be there. On the 4th, look for a sensational lineup of stars,
planets and the Moon. In the west-northwest, Castor and Pollux,
of the Gemini Twins, will be just above the horizon an hour after
sunset. To the left of these will be Venus, the Moon, Saturn, and
then the star Regulus.
• Look for Mars in the early morning eastern sky. The Moon
and Mars will be in conjunction on the 10th about an hour before
• Jupiter is an evening planet in the west. Look for the
Moon on the evening of the 27th about one hour after sunset. Just
above and to the right will be Antares and then Jupiter a bit higher.
• Saturn, too, is in the evening western sky after sunset.
On the 30th, find Venus and Saturn almost on top of each other in
the west-northwest. Above and to the left will be Regulus.
• The Moon will be full on the 30th at 7:49 a.m. MDT and
new on the 14th at 9:13 p.m.
If you have a question or comment for Charlie,
you may email him at email@example.com.