While there has been a lot of talk about the Draconid meteor storm peaking this October 8th, and how the Moon’s glare will wash out most of the fireworks show – why not take that lunar lemon and make lemonade! While you may still want to watch for a couple dozen shooting stars per hour, that giant silvery orb will be the main attraction for skywatchers worldwide in the second annual International Observe the Moon event this Saturday night.
NASA along with hundreds of astronomy clubs, schools, observatories and planetariums worldwide will be hosting public events designed to engage and educate people of all ages about the Moon and its role in science, exploration and culture. And when I say this is a global event, you just have to look at the world map on the website filled with tags across so many countries.
Most events promise to have telescopes on hand, making this a great opportunity to get close up views of Earth’s natural satellite and closest cosmic neighbor. Binoculars will easily show off those dark patches visible with the naked eyes. Called plains or maria in Latin meaning seas- these are vast, ancient lava plains formed over billions of years ago when magma from the moon’s interior spilled out onto the surface, triggered by a giant asteroid impacts.
With telescopes, the views get even more exciting – you can get sharp views of hundreds of ridges, mountains, cliffs and craters up close. Looking through the eyepiece of a scope it can feel as if you are looking down from low lunar orbit – just like astronauts had on the Apollo missions some 40 years ago – an unforgettable sight!
Luna’s glare is the bane of many amateur astronomers seeking out distant nebulae and galaxies, but the moon offers the easiest access to begin exploring the universe at large – especially though binoculars or small telescopes. After all its quite easy to find in the sky and you can enjoy the views even from heavily light polluted, large cities.
You want to know what kind of other cool features you can track down on the Moon any clear night it’s in your skies? Check out the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Moon – a very detailed website dedicated to showing you exactly what you can see on the surface of the moon – generated for every day of the calendar.
To find out if there are any formal celebrations in your neck of the woods, visit the International Observe the Moon Night.