Moon Watch

It is some time since I mentioned Einstein Year (also known as the International Year of Physics) but after reading a post discussing the point of amateur astronomy [Note the fun is sometimes the point], an item from the Institute of Physics's interactions newspaper caught my eye. The article was describing how Her Majesty's Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO) are conducting a mass-participation experiment to observe the Moon. No telescopes are required.

HMNAO provide official dates for diary publishers, some religious groups and other organisations. Amongst the dates they provide are the dates of the phases of the Moon. I'm sure everyone has seen the little symbols in diaries, on calendars and near the weather forecast in newspapers. To work out when the first slim crescent of Moon will be visible from a particular location on the Earth, a model is used. The main problem with the current model is that most of the observations that go into it are from the Southern Hemisphere and the Middle East, and therefore it isn't too accurate up in the north. To help refine the model that is used, and create a massive experiment in the process, HMNAO would like as many people as possible to spot the crescent Moon and submit the sighting to the Moon Watch website.

If you would like to take part, read the details on their website and then go outside looking for the Moon on 3-5 November or 2-4 December. As the Moon will be near the Sun at these times, you should start looking for it very shortly after the Sun has set (don't look at the Sun) near the western horizon. You'll only have about half an hour or so to catch the Moon before it too sets. Even if you don't spot the Moon HMNAO say they want to know about it. The first results are expected in December.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 10th Oct 2005 (22:44 UTC) | Permalink
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