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The Times They are A-Changin’…

Hey there!  Recovered from the time change yet?

It’s always a bit weird when we “Fall Back” or “Spring Ahead.”  Suddenly things you did in daylight happen in the dark…and things you did in the dark are now happening after sunrise!  I could write volumes on the reasons why we change our clocks, whether it’s helpful or hurtful to do so, and whether or not we should continue the practice.  But others have already done that…in spades.  I think I’ll talk about some other changes time has wrought.

Have you noticed that the nights are decidedly cooler?  This is always great news for astronomers – we like our nights dark, cold, and clear with low humidity.  And so they have become.  The change of season has brought us to the beginning of the best time of the year for night sky observing.  I can’t wait!

Jupiter and Saturn are still hanging on in the western part of the early evening sky.  They do set early now, but they are there if you’ve got a view to your southwest.  More exciting to me is the slow, steady reappearance of our winter constellations.

The positions of Jupiter and Saturn on November 9, 2019 at 6pm. Image created with Starry Night.

Orion the Hunter, the most prominent of all the constellations, is now becoming visible in the eastern sky around 10pm.  He brings along with him some of my most favorite deep sky objects, including the famous Orion Nebula and the beautiful Pleaides star cluster.  I love looking at the Pleaides especially – they look like brilliant blue-white diamonds scattered on the velvet black backdrop of the sky.  Best in binoculars, they are still lovely through a small telescope as well.  Don’t miss them!

Orion the Hunter. Image courtesy The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Wondering how you can get to see all these amazing things?  Easy!  Join us at the Virginia Living Museum this Saturday for our monthly Stargazing and Laser Light Night event.  We’re following a big museum fundraiser this Saturday (the Oyster Roast – tickets may still be available!) so we won’t be open until 7pm on Saturday November 9 for stargazing.  Bundle up – it may be quite cold outside!  It will be well worth it – clear skies are expected, and we will be looking at all the things mentioned above and more.  Come on in to the Abbitt Planetarium for a sky or laser show as well ($6 each, or see any 2 shows for $10 – Members always half-price)!  In our Education Center, we’ll have some late night fun – FREE Starbucks coffee and super-cool glow-in-the-dark tattoos (should look extra cool in theater during our laser shows!).  Plus help keep FREE Stargazing FREE by making a donation and enjoying some late night snacks!  It’s going to be great fun – don’t miss out!  See you there!

Also – SPECIAL COSMIC STRINGS ALERT: Mercury will pass in front of the Sun during the day on Monday November 11!  We will have our solar telescopes out to see it.  Come join us at the museum between 9am and 1:30pm to get a peek (museum admission required).

Mercury transiting the disk of the Sun. Image courtesy


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