Things to see in the sky tonight

Sometimes I don't bother to talk about something on my blog because it has been mentioned elsewhere. An example is tonight/tomorrow morning's lunar eclipse which has been mentioned by Dave, Tom, Will, Phil, The Jodcast, and Rob. The eclipse is visible between 01:43 am UT and 05:09 am UT tomorrow morning so requires an early (or very late) night for observers in Europe and Africa. The eclipse can also be seen from South/North America (night of Wednesday 20th February), and Western Asia (morning of Thursday 21st February) at slightly more reasonable hours local time.

As well as the eclipse there are some other things to see in the sky. Perhaps the most urgent to see is US spy satellite USA 193 whose orbit is decaying. Some reports say it will be blown up by a missile in the imminent future (possibly during the eclipse tonight). According to Heavens Above I should be able to see USA 193 pass over Manchester tonight at 18:40:34 UT although I won't if the fog doesn't lift. Check out Heavens Above for predictions from where you live. Phil Plait has a good video summing up what is known about it. Don't forget to check out viewing predictions for the ISS and Shuttle as you might just get to see them too.

Finally, on the subject of seeing things in the night sky, you can be a Hero too. In this month's Sky At Night Magazine Will tells us to "save the skies... save the world" or in other words reduce our light wastage to help improve our view of space and reduce our global energy bills. We waste a lot of light and, as David Paulreported on the recent Jodcast, some places in England are trialling turning their lights off after midnight to reduce their environmental impact. Even if you aren't responsible for your local street lighting you can still make a difference. The SpaceWriter points us to Earth Hour which plans to get people all over the world to turn off unnecessary lights on March 29th 2008 between 8 and 9pm local time. This is an environmental campaign but I suggest sidewalk (or guerilla) astronomers take advantage of any improved viewing conditions and show your fellow occupants of the planet the wonders of the night sky.
Go on. Go outside and have a look upwards.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 20th Feb 2008 (12:41 GMT) | Permalink
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