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Bad Moon Rising

Actually, there’s nothing bad about the Moon…but it’s always a good day when you can reference a CCR song.

In fact, if you can join us for our monthly stargazing and laser light night this Saturday, we’ll show you something pretty cool about the Moon.  On that evening, it will be sharing the same phase as Venus.

Most folks are aware of the monthly cycle of shape changes that the Moon undergoes.  We call these phases, and they happen because the Moon revolves around the Earth.  That gives us the opportunity to see the Moon lit up by the Sun from different directions.

How the Moon gets its phases. Image from space.com/NASA.

Well, the same thing happens with the two innermost planets, Mercury and Venus.  Because they orbit closer in towards the Sun than we do, we get to see them lit by the Sun from different directions as well.  So they also show us phases!  To see the phase of Mercury or Venus, however, you must use a telescope.  The Moon is a whole lot closer to us than either of those planets, so we can see its phases directly.

On January 11, as the sun sets, Venus will be prominent in the southwestern sky.  If the sky permits, we will be using our telescopes to see its phase – it should be a lovely waning gibbous.

As Venus sets in the west, the Moon will be rising in the east.  So as the night passes on, we will switch from seeing the waning gibbous Venus to seeing the waning gibbous Moon.  It should make for a delightful evening of sky watching.  Here’s hoping for clear skies!

Besides the waning gibbous show in the sky, we’ll also be having some great shows in the Abbitt Planetarium!  At 6:30pm, families with little kids can enjoy a kid-friendly look through the sky and a great laser constellation story with Legends of the Night Sky: Orion.  Take a tour through our evening sky with Virginia Skies at 7:30pm.  Then stick around for some great music with three different laser shows: Laseropolis at 8:30pm, Rush 2112 at 10pm, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon at 11:30pm.  Shows are $6 per person, or see any 2 different shows on the same evening for $10.  Members are always half-price!  Stargazing will begin at 5:30pm, weather permitting and is FREE for all guests.  The Wild Side Cafe will be open throughout the evening for dinner, drinks, and snacks.

See you there!

Kelly

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