DIAMOND, Mo. — On most nights, the moon is pretty easy to spot in the sky. And if you know where to look, you can usually spy three or four planets too. But what about something farther away, like a globular cluster named Messier 22 or the Lagoon Nebula?
These are just some of the heavenly bodies available for viewing during Saturday night’s Wonders of the Sky program at George Washington National Carver Monument, a biannual event.
And for those of you who only know the night sky from an urban area, peering up at the yellow splash of artificial city lights, you’re in for a treat, park ranger Valerie Baldwin said. Carver National Monument possesses one of the largest areas of unspoiled, natural night sky in the Joplin metro area, so expect to see a darker-than-usual night sky.
“Without looking through a telescope or binoculars, the stars just appear to twinkle, and some appear brighter than others,” she said. “However, when you look through a telescope, you start to see different colors. Some stars are red, galaxies have numerous stars ... and nebulas have a variety of colors. Some are surprised because this may have been their first time being able to see the stars and ... they never knew how many amazing things are truly in the sky.”
Activities begin at 6:30 p.m., and between 70 and 100 participants are expected. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a 10% chance for rain.
Sadly, Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s big red eye — two of the most requested sights to see — won’t be visible from Diamond, though other celestial wonders will be up for viewing from two telescopes. The public is invited to bring their own telescopes or binoculars.
“We hope to see the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda galaxy or a spiral galaxy near the Big Dipper,” Baldwin said.
Jason Burns, a professional night sky photographer, will speak about the dwindling areas providing natural darkness, as light pollution continues to expand and wipe out this natural resource. If it’s not protected, Baldwin said, it will disappear.
The Wonders of the Night Sky programs help connect people to our pasts, Baldwin said.
“Think about how many historical figures, and even our own ancestors, looked at the night sky and may have seen the very same things we are looking at today,” Baldwin said.
When looking at faint objects such as stars, nebulae or other galaxies, it’s important to allow your eyes time to adapt to the darkness in order to achieve better night vision. Usually 15 minutes will suffice. Try to avoid looking at bright devices, such as a cellphone, when stargazing.