In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), successfully entered into orbit around the moon in order to carry out its primary mission of mapping and imaging the lunar surface in unprecedented detail. The following year, at the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA decided to celebrate the success of the mission with the general public in an event they called, International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). By partnering with astronomy clubs, museums, planetariums, libraries, and schools, NASA hoped to get people from all around the world to set aside just one night to look up, observe and learn about the Moon together, and to celebrate the cultural and personal connections we all have with our nearest celestial neighbor.
The event turned out to be an unqualified success. Now eight years down the road, InOMN is celebrated each autumn with over 500 individual events scattered across 40 different countries. This year, InOMN is officially held on October 20th, but the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society (CAAS) has partnered with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock to celebrate the event on October 19th, with the 20th as a “rain date”.
The InOMN event will be held at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, 204 East 4th Street, North Little Rock, on October 19th from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. CAAS and The Hub decided to use the 19th as the event night for a number of reasons, but one of the most important of them being that the 19th is also the 3rd Friday Art Walk in Argenta. This will lend a carnival-like atmosphere to the proceedings. As this date is so close to Halloween, there will be a number of holiday themed events going on in the neighborhood. The Innovation Hub will have a “Make it Scary” activity for kids from 5pm to 8pm.
Make It Scary activities involve:
* screen printing Halloween t shirts
* laser cutting Halloween crafts
* painting on pottery
* overall family friendly Halloween crafting to get your child ready for trick or treating!
There will be no shortage of food and drink as there are any number of restaurants and pubs in the area as well as food trucks available as well.
From 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM CAAS will have telescopes set up outside so that you can view the moon in detail. You will see craters, jagged mountains, valleys, lava plains, and more, almost as if you were in a spacecraft orbiting just above the lunar surface. You will easily see why Buzz Aldrin once described the moon’s surface as “magnificent desolation”. Believe me, if you have never seen the moon through a telescope, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this opportunity. It truly is a sight that you will remember for the rest of your life.
Inside The Hub, at 7:00 PM, CAAS’s Bruce McMath will give a presentation on the problem of light pollution as well a program on the basics of lunar observing.
Dr. Tony Hall of the UA Little Rock Physics and Astronomy Department will be displaying some fine meteorite specimens throughout the evening, a few of which you can actually touch. Tony will tell you all about these rocks from space and how, over the past 4.5 billion years, they have sculpted the moon’s face that we see today.
Of course, any time you host an astronomy event of this nature, you are always at the mercy of the weather. That’s why CAAS and The Hub have decided to use the 20th as a “rain date”, just in case the weather is not cooperating on Friday, the 19th. The times will be the same for the 20th, there just won’t be any of the holiday themed activities or food trucks for that night. And if the 20th should get clouded out? Well, that’s just the way it goes. However, keep in mind these public star parties that CAAS has on their calendar for the remainder of the year:
Saturday, October 13th, 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor Center
Saturday, November 10th, 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM at Woolly Hollow State Park, in the field adjacent to Bennett Lake.
The InOMN event, as well as the public star parties, are free and open to one and all.
To learn more about InOMN, go here: https://moon.nasa.gov/observe-the-moon/annual-event/overview/
To learn more about the moon, go here: https://moon.nasa.gov
To learn more about the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society and their events, go here: http://www.caasastro.org