7 May 2011, 16:17

Astronomy Day

Astronomy Day
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Today both professional and amateur astronomers mark the Astronomy Day. On this occasion planetariums and observatories in many countries hold lectures and open days and in some cities astronomers even set up their telescopes right in the streets.

Today both professional and amateur astronomers mark the Astronomy Day. On this occasion planetariums and observatories in many countries hold lectures and open days and in some cities astronomers even set up their telescopes right in the streets. 

The Astronomy Day occurs on a Saturday between mid-April and mid-May, and is scheduled so as to occur at or just before the first quarter Moon.  This event was started in 1973 by Doug Berger, the president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California. His intent was to set up various telescopes in busy urban locations so that passersby could enjoy views of the heavens. Since then the event has expanded and is now sponsored by a number of organizations associated with astronomy. Dmitry Vibbe, the leading research associate of the Institute of Astronomy told the “Voice of Russia” how the observatory in Zvenigorod of the Moscow region got involved in the Astronomy day events.

"It all started in 2009, which was declared the international year of astronomy.  The observatory of Zvenigorod was among many Russian and foreign observatories which took part in the event called “100 hours of astronomy”. The event was a success and since then we hold open days almost twice a year."

The image of astronomer peering into the eyepiece of his telescope has stayed in the past.  It has been for many decades already that the light from the stars is fixed on photographic plates. The method of layering of photographic plates made with an interval of several days helped to discover Pluto, the astronomer says.  But people who come to observatory can also look into an eyepiece. The observatory in Zvenigorod has a special telescope for demonstration. By the way, the observatories in the Moscow region do not have big telescopes. It makes no sense to keep them in the local climate and under the sky which is lighted by the illumination of night Moscow.  Observatories located high in the mountains is a different thing. The conditions for star gazing are perfect there but this is not for wide audience. Nowadays the interest to astronomy is huge especially amid frequent talks about the coming end of the world.

"I think it is partly caused by pseudo scientific information and apocalyptic sentiments which are often voiced in mass media.  I assume that people are tired of listening to this bullshit and need someone who could console them."

On the Astronomy Day people all over the world try to take their minds off everyday routine and political and social problems.  It is hard to imagine but even Iran, which is a regular newsmaker today, has prepared a wide program on the occasion of the Astronomy Day. In particular, local movie theaters will hold contests for the best photograph of stars taken by amateur-astronomers.

The Astronomy Day also has some sacral meaning. Watching the stars we see how beautiful and great the Universe is. We realize how small and vulnerable Earth is and that we should do our best to protect our planet.

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