By Patricia Daukantas
The International Year of Astronomy (IYA) continues with one project to measure light pollution around the world and another project to increase awareness of that really bright star in the daytime sky.
The annual GLOBE at Night program asks participants to look for the constellation Orion at night, compare their view of the stars to a chart of stellar brightnesses, and report their observations—no telescope necessary. You can see more (and dimmer) stars in an area of low light pollution than in an area of high light pollution (such as large cities).
Yesterday’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” was a map showing the results of last year's stargazing effort. Because of the IYA, the sponsors are hoping for even more participation from every inhabited continent. This year’s program, which always coincides with the appearance of Orion in the early evening sky, runs until Saturday, March 28.
This year, the vernal equinox falls on March 21, and NASA has declared it “Sun-Earth Day.” The U.S. space agency has set up a special site with podcasts, video podcasts, a webcast and a “space weather media viewer” that lets you see the Sun in a variety of wavelengths (as well as auroral activity on Earth). There’s even a public-outreach observing challenge for amateur astronomers.
Remember: Always practice eye safety when observing the Sun, whether or not there’s an eclipse going on. A safe method to look at the Sun is to take two sheets of white cardboard, make a pinhole in one of them, and use that sheet to project an image of the solar disk onto the other piece of cardboard. With this method I got enough detail to observe the June 2004 transit of Venus from start to finish.
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