Friday, September 25th 2020, 4:15 pm - Here are five ways to observe and admire the beauty of the Moon this weekend
International Observe The Moon Night has arrived for 2020! So, Saturday night, whether your skies are clear or not, pause for a moment to appreciate the beauty of our Moon.
The Moon is Earth's constant companion, and it is the brightest object in the sky on most nights. It has inspired myths, songs and poetry. Numerous stories have been written about it, and about our exploration of it. Simply put, it is the most common way that we humans connect with the universe beyond our planet.
The night of Saturday, September 26, is International Observe The Moon Night 2020.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
According to NASA, "International Observe the Moon Night occurs annually in September or October, when the Moon is around first quarter - a great phase for evening observing."
Moonrise occurs a few hours before sunset on Saturday afternoon. The exact timing depends on your latitude and exactly where you are, geographically, within your time zone. Keen observers can still see the Moon in the late afternoon sky and into dusk, but it's after sunset that the 'show' really begins. Viewers will have until a few hours after midnight before the Moon slips below the western horizon (again, the exact timing depends on where you are).
The gibbous phase of the Moon, on the night of Saturday, September 26, 2020. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
There are five great ways to observe the Moon on Saturday night.
The first, obviously, is to go outside and simply look up. The Moon will be well above the southern horizon by the time the Sun sets, with Saturn and Jupiter nearby in the sky as well.
With how bright the Moon and these giant planets are, there's no need to go anywhere to do this. Even from the most light-polluted regions of the country, viewing will be easy.
*The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter, roughly an hour after sunset on September 26, 2020. Credit: Stellarium/NASA SVS/Scott Sutherland.
The second way is to bring a pair of binoculars or a telescope outside for an even closer look. NASA recommends concentrating your viewing along the 'terminator' (the line between day and night) since the shadows will enhance the Moon's cratered landscape. NASA has produced downloadable maps with several locations on the Moon's surface that are excellent to observe at this time.
While you're at it, also take a moment to pan your binoculars or telescope over to Saturn and Jupiter, to see if you can spot any details or their largest moons.
Will you see the Moon? Here are the cloud conditions across Canada for Saturday night
Given that the sky conditions across Canada are not the most ideal (see the video above), there are ways to check out the Moon that don't require clear skies above your head.
For a third way to observe, without the need to go outside, the Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona, will be hosting a live stream of the Moon, starting at 9:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. PDT).
NASA is providing two ways, as well.
The space agency will be streaming several videos about the Moon on their YouTube channel (embedded below), along with having experts on hand to answer questions between 7-8 p.m. EDT.
Their content throughout the live stream will include views and science from the Apollo missions, a 4K tour of the Moon's surface, details about the science of searching for water on the Moon, how NASA is preparing for the next human missions to the lunar surface, and more.
Finally, one last way to see the Moon on Saturday is to use NASA's Moon Trek to explore it for ourselves.
'Moon Trek's 3D Globe setting, shown here, allows the user to effectively skim around a lunar orbital view, and then zoom in to any location they wish to view in greater detail. Credit: NASA
Use the options at the bottom left to pan about, zoom in and out and change your view between flat maps and a 3D interactive globe. The menu at the top left allows the user to access nearly 10,000 different views, including the locations of the Apollo mission landings, prominent lunar features, and a multitude of science performed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Don't forget, though, that almost any night is a good night to view the Moon. Watch in the week to come, for the first of three 'micromoons' this season, which rises on Thursday, October 1. Then, on October 31, we'll see the smallest Full Moon of 2020 - the Halloween Micro Blue Moon.