Thursday, May 15, 2014

Star Light, Star Bright

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.

May 10 was Astronomy Day, which celebrates the skies and encourages everyone to look up at the night sky.

Light pollution is a result of the artificial lights which accompany human habitation.  The world is getting ever brighter and with that, the wonders of the night sky become harder to see.  One of the delights of living in New Mexico is that we have unusually dark skies.  New Mexico falls 45th in population density, which means fewer people and their light to obscure the stars.  The legislature has also passed The Night Sky Protection Act, to help ensure the preservation of this resource.

Globally there are only nine certified sites which meet the gold standard set by the International Dark-Sky Association.  New Mexico is home to two of these special sites.  One of them is Clayton Lake State Park which is only the 2nd park in the nation to build, maintain and operate a telescope.  The other, newly certified, site is Chaco Cultural National Historic Park.  Each of these sites hosts stargazing events and are prime places to enjoy astronomical phenomenon, such as meteor showers.

Locally, The Albuquerque Astronomical Society has events, including stargazing parties.  Details and more information is available on their website (TAAS).  If staying up late doesn't work well for you, get lost in the Planetarium at the Natural History Museum.

If you have a spot of dark sky and want to stargaze on your own, there are books available in the 520 section of the Non Fiction of your favorite branch.  There are Nightly sky watch alerts, letting you know about upcoming astronomical phenomenon.  There are also Night maps which you can print and take with you.  Lastly, there are apps which can be downloaded to your phone and tell you which constellation is above you.  If you point your phone at the ground, some of them will tell you which constellations are at that location in the southern hemisphere.

Enjoy the wonder of this valuable natural resource which the Land of Enchantment is lucky to have.

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