We know about waste pollution here on earth but I bet you didn’t know there was light pollution too? Skyglow from city buildings and street lights prevent large fractions of the earth's population from properly viewing the night sky. It’s killing astronomy. So, if you’ve got a telescope, get away from city lights.
In New York, years ago, there was a major blackout lasting 20 minutes. Kids the next morning were telling their teachers they saw stars in the night sky for the first time in their lives. Incredible! There’s a generation of kids today who will never, ever appreciate the Milky Way.
“While we’re on a starry bent, grab your scope and pretend you’re setting up beside me in your backyard,” said Dave Reneke from Australasian Science Magazine. “Together we’re going to look at a night sky favourite for March, the Orion constellation. You probably call it the ‘Saucepan.’ Rising in the east after sunset it’s perhaps the most recognizable constellation in the sky.”
“Check out the middle ‘star’ of the handle,” Dave added. “It’s not a star at all. It turns out to be a beautiful steel grey ‘nebula’ where millions of stars are being born, even as you read this. Now, look below the base of the Saucepan and you’ll see a red coloured star. That’s Betelgeuse, or ‘Beetlejuice’ as some call it.”
This is a red giant star, one of the biggest, 700 times larger than our sun. If you placed it where our sun is now it would almost touch the orbit of Saturn! Now spin to the right of Orion and spot the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. It’s visible all night long and you don’t need a telescope to view it.
The distances involved here are amazing. Sirius is 8.6 light years away, meaning that the light you saw tonight took over eight years to get here! You see Sirius not as it looks now, but as it was all that time ago.
Hey, ever wondered what would happen if the sun disappeared? Well, for eight and a half minutes we’d have no idea that the sun had gone. The sun would then blink out and night would fall over the entire earth.
At that instant would earth sail off in a straight line into space. Over the course of several hours, the planets would wink out one by one, as they reflected the last of the sun’s light to us. Whew! Planet earth would quickly start to freeze over all life her would soon perish.