March 3, 2011

Falling in love with Astronomy again

First things first.




my own copy of Pale Blue Dot, fresh from Book Sale
Second, it has been over two decades and by now I have grown sick and tired of looking up at night and always seeing those three dots.

Fortunately, it turns out I could actually use this exhausting sight to better use!

GLOBE At Night is a nifty online initiative for measuring the I'm-guessing-very-appalling rate of light pollution worldwide, not to mention a fun way to re-orient yourself with some of your grade school astronomy.

All you need to do is go outside a little after sunset, look for the constellation Orion (or just those three iconic pinpricks if you're as pitiful a stargazer as I am) and report your findings.

A Philippine view of the night sky?
Orion's location at a atitude of approximately 20 degrees North of the Equator, which Metro Manila (hopefully) falls in the vicinity of.

Specifically, you match up your local view of the night sky with one of the website's provided Magnitude Charts. These help measure the light pollution in your area by gauging just how big or deep a star field you can muster up with your naked eye.

GLOBE at Night, Magnitude Charts
If you can barely make out anything but the absolute brightest things in the sky (I'm looking at you, Sirius), then your neighborhood has way too many giant billboards, or anything else that produces excessive amounts of light.
Manila's streetlights. Totally radical!
Or tackiness.

You can learn more about this international campaign here. (Or here if you're a Facebook whore.)

I can probably already guess what the magnitude is in our area, but this still gives me an excuse to be all scientific about it!

Sigh... Is it sunset yet?

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