See the starry, starry sky (Jan. 12)

January 8, 2008

A few days ago I was promoting an outdoor excursion before dawn; this time I’m advocating going out after dark — and once again, the goal is to see celestial objects.   Because the moon’s out of the picture, this is a good week to give budding astronomers a peek at the heavens, including Comet Holmes, reportedly dim but large and easy to find, if only you know where to look.  And there’s the catch — I slept through 8 a.m. Astronomy 101 during freshman year of college, so it’s no help for someone to tell me the comet will be in Perseus, I’d still have no idea where in the big ol’ sky to point my binoculars to find it, let alone the harder-to-spot Comet Tuttle.  There are some Web sites to help, including an excellent one from Sky and Telescope that’s updated with each week’s highlights, but they recommend using charts to help you sort out what’s where.  And while I’m OK with road maps, those star charts are a lot more confusing to navigate.

The Children’s Museum in Edwardsville (how is it that I wasn’t even aware of this four-year-old institution until last month?!?!) and the River Bend Astronomy Club are braving the cold on Saturday the 12th to help clueless stargazers like me during the seventh annual Starry, Starry Night.  They’ll have high-quality telescopes and high-potency hot chocolate, and they’ll tell you just where to look to find those comets.  Indoors there’ll be space-related activities.

The event is recommended for kids 5 to 15, but interested children of any age are welcome.  No need to register, just pay the $4 fee per participant when you arrive.  And the nice part about winter’s early sunset is that events like this won’t keep you up past bedtime; it runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  For details, call 618.692.2094 or visit the museum’s homepage.

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