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What's up in the sky, April '09

posted Apr 6, 2009, 10:21 AM by Marvin Stewart
           The 2009 Mid States Region Astronomical League Convention held in Columbia, Mo. March 7- 8 was a success. About 62 members attended.
           The main speakers did a wonderful job of holding our attention.  Those that attended are going to remember Angela Speck's talk on how stars die, and Amy Shaw's report on the Mars Phoenix Lander Program. The other interesting papers, on Milky Way mosaics, Solar Observing, studying dark nebulae and propulsion methods in space all were interesting. The one very important topic I wish we didn't have to discuss, about light pollution was by Jim Small, The Globe at Night. Jim did a masterful job of presenting it but how are we going to convince the public, not involved in astronomy, that  it is an important issue? The fact that we hold a count each year to see how many stars we can still see because of light pollution is awful.
            Lots of lights at night will prevent crime.  Not according to the Missouri Crime Statistics web site. The time most robberies are committed is unknown. They are discovered long after the fact. For the rest, 29.3% of robberies occur in the daytime, while 18.3% occur at night,  these statistics are for residential crime.
            I am not, but wish I was, a poignant writer like Rachel Carson who wrote Silent Spring warning us of the dangers of DDT. We, as a people, are losing something by not being able to see the sky at night.
            Scientist say that life isn't possible on a planet in the area of our galaxy we call the bulge, because the radiation is too high. The night sky there would be filled with light because the stars are more compact. Still, if human life were possible there, would they do astronomy? If so, what would they do?  Sadly, it may not be long before I will be able to answer those questions without leaving home.
            Why do we do astronomy? All cultures, civilizations, races, and major religions are involved in it, and have been since written records began, and most likely beyond that. It can't just be because there wasn't anything else to do at night.  Angela Speck in her talk at the convention "What a beautiful Way To Die" Or, how stars die and are reborn pointed out that except for the ratio of hydrogen and oxygen in the water locked in our bodies, all the other elements in our human make up, occur in the Sun in the same ratio. Is it because we are the stuff stars are made of that we look at the sky at night?  We stand to lose so much.
              02    First quarter Moon.
              07   The Moon passes south of Saturn.
              09    Full Moon.
              13    The Moon passes near Antares.
              14    Mars passes south of Uranus at midnight.
              17    Last quarter Moon.
              19    The Moon passes just north of Neptune
              21    Mars at Perhellion
              22   The Moon passes south of Uranus
                      The Lyrid meteor shower peaks
              24    New Moon
              26    Mercury at its' greatest eastern elongation. At its' best for viewers in the Northern hemisphere. Look for it in the west at sunset.