Light Pollution

Light pollution. So aggravating.

Bortle light pollution scale: simulation

The other night I went out with my binoculars and had a lovely look at Jupiter including three of its moons. I was so impressed that I dragged Father out bodily (even he was impressed) and got Ribby out of bed. She was impressed too. Some of the children have a passing interest in astronomy, but other than that, I alone in the house deplore the high wattage of the neighbors’ security lights.

One of my many reasons for wanting to live out in the country (with no visible neighbors) is the total control over the amount of ambient light at night. Other than the moon, of course. You don’t have to have a light right in your eyes in order to lose the ability to see lower magnitude objects. As it is, I can’t really find any place around the house that I don’t have a light right in my eyes. Well, there is one spot in the backyard that is pretty dark. The only drawback is this: when you look up all you see are trees.
Tonight I’m ranting because I was really looking forward to seeing Comet 103P/Hartley. Tonight it’s supposed to be just SE of the double cluster in Perseus near Cassiopeia. It should be visible with the naked eye (if you’re where it’s dark, grr) but should show up really well with binoculars. Well, I couldn’t see it. I’m going to go back out just before bed and check again.* Hopefully the neighbors’ raucous party will have died down by then too, but that’s another rant for another time.
For more information, see the International Dark-Sky Association site.

*I went back out and still didn’t see the comet. Jupiter had risen sufficiently that I could see it above the trees so I took another look. You can see the four largest moons quite clearly tonight. If you’re interested in looking and you’re in the northern hemisphere (sorry, not too familiar with the southern but check on-line) look up at the zenith (right overhead) between 10 and 12 or so and Jupiter will be the brightest object closest to that spot. It’s easily the brightest object in the sky right now and is almost at opposition (I think it will be at opposition near the end of October – i.e.- its closest approach to the Earth). If you’re in a very dark area you might be able to see the moons without magnification but you will probably need at least binoculars. With binoculars you can see the moons with no problem. They’re very close to Jupiter, all in a row out to either side. If you watch over the course of a few hours you can actually see them move (horizontally) as they orbit Jupiter. Neat. I’m not that patient and there are still mosquitoes outside so I’ll leave that to you.

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