Moon Observing Night in Japan


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TOKYO (majirox news) –The second International Observe the Moon Night was Oct. 8. This NASA sponsored event has spread worldwide and hundreds of astronomy clubs, schools, planetariums and observatories from Cape town to Washington State to Shikoku hosted Moon Observing parties.

“We set up 15 telescopes in the schoolyard,” said teachers from Takatsuki Kitahiyoshidai Elementary School in Ehime prefecture. “Around 300 children and their parents came and saw the moon. They tried their hand at making amateur telescopes. It made the night even more memorable because the children saw the moon through a telescope they just made.”

One of the perennial complaints of city bound astronomers and star watchers is that light pollution — the tremendous glare that huge cities throw off around the clock — make it impossible to see the stars. However, as the moon was not hidden by the city lights, this was a great night to turn one’s telescopes and binoculars towards the moon.

NASA has a home page, “International Observe the Moon Night,” with a lot of good information and even the “Moon Zoo” project that allows amateurs to help classify and sort lunar photographs.

The best source is Steve Renshaw’s award-winning home page “Astronomy in Japan,” which lists dozens of resources in Japanese and English. This multiple award-winning site has some of the most accessible information found anywhere on astronomy in Japan.

Moon viewing parties, called “Otsukimi” in Japanese, where the beauty of the autumn moon is admired somewhat like cherry blossom viewing, has a long history in Japan. Otsukimi takes place in September and October and is said to have started in the Heian era around 800 AD, when parties were held to admire the harvest moon. Otsukimi dango, a traditional moon viewing treat, is one of the special foods associated with this festival.

Japan’s space agency, JAXA, even goes so far as to say, “Japanese have a special feeling for the moon,” which may well be true, as the country has done some very notable Lunar science. Japan was the third country to put a satellite in orbit around the moon in 1990. In 2008, Japan’s Kaguya moon probe, with two satellites flying in tandem above the moon’s surface, returned real time videos. It gave one the eerie feeling they were gliding above the moon’s plains and craters as Kaguya mapped it with a level of precision never achieved before.

Japan’s National Observatory or the National Astronomy Library in Mitaka can supply further information. For one of the most comprehensive guides to the moon and lunar astronomy try Akkana Peck’s Web site “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Moon” that gives great detail about what you are seeing and why.

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One Response to Moon Observing Night in Japan

  1. walter marich on 10/10/2011 at 6:23 am

    Japan has always had a nice view of the full moon as long as I can remember..I have lots and lots of slides of the full moon taken about 50some odd years ago from the moon rise to its now in NZ auckland, the full moon rise is also beautiful..

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