Star Light, Star Bright…

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WEATHER - CINDY DAY Chief Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Cindy Day

Ear­lier this month, I had the plea­sure of spend­ing some time on the fam­ily farm in Bainsville, Ont. I’m not sure what the pop­u­la­tion of Bainsville is these days but to quote the old joke, “if you blink on your way by, you might miss it”.

The farm house sits on the 2nd con­ces­sion. The road is not paved . . . prob­a­bly never will be. There are no street lights or stop lights and that’s what makes it mag­i­cal.

If you’re an am­a­teur back­yard astronomer you prob­a­bly know all about light pol­lu­tion; in Bainsville, it doesn’t ex­ist.

One night af­ter the mos­qui­toes chased us in­side I went back out to take some clothes off the clothes­line. I hadn’t turned on the ve­randa light so it was pitch black out. I looked up and couldn’t be­lieve my eyes. The stars and plan­ets looked like raw di­a­monds scat­tered on a black velvet cloth.

The night sky is mag­i­cal even if you do have to deal with some light pol­lu­tion. On any clear night it of­fers an ever-chang­ing dis­play of stars and con­stel­la­tions, bright plan­ets, of­ten the moon and some­times spe­cial events like me­teor show­ers.

Ob­serv­ing the night sky can be done with no spe­cial equip­ment but does re­quire a lit­tle co-oper­a­tion from Mother Na­ture.

This week­end, weather per­mit­ting, there will be two con­junc­tions in the evening sky.

Con­junc­tions, or plan­e­tary align­ments, oc­cur when two or more plan­ets ap­pear very close to­gether.

Start­ing around 9 p.m. on Satur­day, look for the young cres­cent moon low in the west­ern sky. Then with the help of binoc­u­lars, you should be able to spot Mer­cury; it should be a lit­tle more than one fin­ger width held at arm’s length be­low the moon. The planet will be­come eas­ier to see as the sky grows darker, un­til about 10 p.m. lo­cal time, just be­fore it sets.

Then on Sun­day, the young wax­ing cres­cent moon will be very close to Venus – just to the right of it. You’ll also find Reg­u­lus, the bright­est star in Leo, just be­low the pair and a lit­tle to the right.

De­pend­ing on where you are, there will be some cloud around Satur­day evening into Sun­day. Most of us might have to wait un­til Sun­day evening to check out the con­junc­tion.

Happy sky watch­ing!

Very lit­tle light pol­lu­tion in Port Bick­er­ton, N.S.! The Milky Way pops in this gor­geous photo taken by Barry Burgess.

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