It's the Moon, over

I first caught this via Will Gater and I notice that Rob has blogged it too. To highlight misuse of the 999 service - the UK's emergency services number - Welsh police have released examples of what you shouldn't call them about. The example in the BBC News story is of a man calling 999 to report a mysterious, unidentified, luminous object hovering over a nearby mountain. After a police car was dispatched to identify the object, they reported back on the radio with "It's the Moon, over".

The audio is quite amusing, and it is easy to laugh, but this also highlights something else. Some people (I hesitate to say many) look up into the night sky so infrequently that they can't identify something even as familiar as the Moon. For thousands of years the Moon has been familiar to humanity. Now, nearly 40 years after the first human landed on our largest satellite, it seems that some people fail to identify it in the night sky. Why is this? I don't know. Could it be the increase in light pollution? Perhaps people are just too busy to look up? No doubt they have more pressing concerns down on the ground. Perhaps they just don't share the thrill of knowing our place in the universe.

I hope that the International Year of Astronomy can be a call to arms to amateur and professional astronomers, and others that like space stuft to re-engage people with humanity's shared heritage of the night sky. In early April 2009 there will be a chance for a global star party as part of the 100 hours of astronomy. That will be a great opportunity for sidewalk/guerilla astronomy. Perhaps by 2010 there will be no more calls to the police wondering what the Moon is.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 04th Jul 2008 (21:00 BST) | Permalink
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