The Woodward News

October 11, 2013

Saturday is Observe the Moon night

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — When you think about the night sky, the moon is often the first thing that comes to mind.  But how much do you know about Earth's nearest celestial neighbor?

The Starcreek Astronomical Society of Woodward is offering the public a chance to learn more about our largest satellite during a moon viewing event this Saturday evening.

Weather permitting, members of the Starcreek group will set up their telescopes on the field along 13th Street east of Trinity Lutheran Church and allow people from the public to use them to get a closer look at the lunar surface.  Viewing opportunities will be available from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Parking for the event is available at the church, which is located at 1518 14th St.

The moon viewing party is being held as part of the International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN), in which amateur astronomers across the world gather to, as the name implies, observe the moon.

Bobette Doerrie, who is the secretary of the Starcreek Astronomical Society, said the local group is participating in InOMN "to help increase people's interest and enjoyment in astronomy."

Doerrie said the moon is a great place to start in astronomy because its "the first thing that people look at in the night sky."

And since it is the closest celestial object to Earth, she said the moon is easy for people to observe.

"Some people even use binoculars and can still see quite a bit of detail," she said.

As for why people might want to learn more about the moon, Doerrie said "because it's really fascinating."

"The surface of the moon tells us a lot about its history," she said, noting "When you look at it, particularly through a telescope, you can see signs of impact on the surface."

These signs, which include the moon's many craters, help scientists tell when certain activity was occurring in our solar system.

"There are old craters, we're talking ancient, and some really bright ones which are relatively recent.  I say relatively because we're talking billions of years," Doerrie said.  "Some of the oldest are nearly 5 billion years old, which is a time when a lot of big rocks were coming into our solar system. But some have occurred within the last few hundred years."

She said that understanding more about the moon's history can help scientists learn more about Earth's history as well.  Because if our neighbor the moon was getting pelted by space rocks billions of years ago, it's likely that Earth was getting hit as well.

"Since there's no rain and no atmosphere on the moon, it keeps the evidence of those impacts.  But on Earth where there is rain and wind and atmosphere, that evidence disappears because of erosion," Doerrie said.

Our moon is also unique, she said, noting "It's the only moon like it in our solar system."

Part of what makes the moon unique is its size.

"The moon is a quarter of the diameter of the Earth, which makes it an extremely large moon relatively speaking," Doerrie said.  "Most moons in relation to the planet they're orbiting are quite a bit smaller."

Earth's moon is also different because "it's our only moon, while most planets with moons have multiple."

Doerrie said Starcreek members will share more information about the moon with those who visit Saturday's observation event.  For example, she said they can learn about how the moon can affect ocean tides and about why there are different phases of the moon.

While the astronomical society usually has to hold its events away from the lights of town in order to see more distant objects in the sky, Doerrie said "since the moon is so big and bright" they can hold the InOMN event in Woodward.

"We're having it right here in the heart of town so it should be easy for a lot of people to get to," she said.

The event is free to attend and everyone is invited, she said.

"People of all ages would enjoy this from the little ones on up," Doerrie said, encouraging people to "bring the whole family."

For more information about the InOMN event, visit the program's website at http://observethemoonnight.org.

For more information about the Starcreek Astronomical Society of Woodward, you can contact Doerrie by phone at (806) 202-2967 or by e-mail at bdoerrie@gmail.com.

Or, she said you can come attend Starcreek's club meeting which will be held just prior to Saturday's moon viewing event.

"If they're interested, before that event we're going to have our Starcreek business meeting at 7 p.m. at the church.  And if they want to come to that, they are welcome to join us," Doerrie said.  "We're always open to having new people who are interested in astronomy to visit or join us.  And you don't have to have a telescope or anything, just come join in."