A story in the Baltimore Sun called attention to a night sky event that Marylanders hadn’t witnessed in almost two years. December 21, 2009 was the date of the last lunar eclipse. This rare event occurs when the moon passes through the shadow of Earth. Despite the cold and the unusually early morning hour, Marylanders left their warm homes to witness this occasion. The last time a total eclipse occurred in Maryland was in February 2008. Even though a snowstorm had just occurred, many dark sky watchers showed up to witness the astronomical event. This interest emphasizes the value that many place on the night sky.
Fascinated with astronomical events, citizens consult astronomers regarding dates to watch the sky. The article has an informative listing of upcoming astronomical events. Another eclipse won’t occur until April 15, 2014, but the dark skies have other exciting developments on the way. According to the schedule, Jupiter and Mars will make stunning appearances accompanied by Venus, Mercury and the moon. Meteor showers are expected to dazzle the night sky along with a potential view of the International Space Station. Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine; mentions in the article that the most exciting lunar events are the ones that surprise.
MacRobert further describes the brightness and color of the eclipsed moon as critically dependent on the condition of the earth’s atmosphere. According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), light pollution is a problem for astronomers. Sky glow is created from lighting positioned directly upward into the sky. It often appears as an orange-yellow glow radiating from urban areas. The poorly positioned lighting interferes with sensitive astronomical instruments and prevents astronomers from viewing evidence of galaxies far away. Light trespass is another issue that the IDA is concerned with. Incorrectly aimed fixtures cast light in unwelcome areas such as buildings, homes and unfortunately for astronomers; observatories.
Ensuring that light fixtures are shielded and focused correctly is important. Light should not be shining in areas that create a nuisance. Astronomers need cooperation to prevent light pollution so that they may observe objects in the night sky without interference. Measures are required to protect the night sky. Lights can be turned off and on continuously, but eclipses are rare events in civilization.