One of the reflecting telescopes at Jenny Jump State Forest. Photo by Gordon Bond

 

There is a wonderful dark sky location convenient to Metro NYC and Philadelphia, as well as Northern NJ, Eastern PA and Southern NY State. Within the Jenny Jump State Forest in Hope, NJ, the site is run by UACNJ, the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey. Every Saturday night they have a featured speaker with audio-visual extras inside a small museum/clubhouse and the fee is a donation. After the speaker is finished one can go outside and look at the skies. There are people on hand with telescopes and if the night is clear amazing things can be seen.

The evening I attended, the lecture was by an astronomy professor Lonny Bunis from Raritan Valley Community College, another time I spoke with an astronomy professor from NJIT, Dr. Dale Gary, who had discovered an exoplanet. I was very impressed! I also saw Jupiter and her four Galilean moons including a shadow cast on the surface of Jupiter by one of them. So for a portion of Jupiter there was an eclipse at that time. Jupiter has 63 known moons so these little lunar eclipses must be a common occurence. The comet Hartley 2, a nebula, Uranus, and the Andromeda Galaxy were other things I saw through the 16″ reflecting telescope. A club member ably manned and focused those sights in the telescope for visitors to see. Light from the Andromeda Galaxy takes two and a half billion light years to reach the Earth. Light from our Sun takes approximately 20 minutes to reach us. So everything that you see in the sky exists in the past. For all we know the Andromeda Galaxy is no longer there! I also saw three meteors careening through the night sky.

The environmental issue here is that we are losing the ability to see the stars because artificial lighting is polluting the night sky so it never really gets dark enough in most places to see these celestial marvels. Artificial lighting can be made less strong and so that its light reflects downward toward the Earth causing less light to escape upwards towards the sky.

The International Dark Sky Association works to combat light pollution.

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