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Free library program offers glimpse of Lake Havasu City’s night skies

January 5, 2019

Going outside after dark – and looking up -- is an awe-inspiring experience in Havasu. But do you know exactly what you’re seeing?

Jim Patterson will discuss stargazing in Lake Havasu City Jan. 15. The free presentation is at 6:30 p.m. at the Mohave County Library in Lake Havasu City.

“I’ll talk about what’s coming up in the night sky for the next few weeks, including the lunar eclipse,” Patterson said of the overnight Jan. 20-21 event.

By day, he is a library assistant. The former high school teacher plans to lead astronomy discussions every quarter because there is so much to see in Havasu’s ultra-clear night skies. The Jan. 15 event will be his third presentation at the library. The other two were well-attended, he said.

“We have low humidity plus very little light pollution,” Patterson said of the ideal conditions that make Havasu a great location for stargazing. “You can see the Milky Way most every night.”

He will talk about Earth’s “close” encounter with Jupiter and Venus. He’ll also point out the many planets and constellations that can be seen now with the naked eye. There will be a question-and-answer session after his presentation.

Patterson dispelled the myth that in winter, some stars appear larger and nearer. It’s an optical illusion, he said. Also, it seems that some nights, Havasu’s sky is crowded with stars, extending to the horizon in all directions. Other nights, the stars seem to have disappeared.

“They’re always there, but some nights they are more visible than others when we have less dust in the air or fewer clouds high in the atmosphere that block our view,” he said.

And as lovely as it is, a brilliant moon hampers star gazing.

“When the moon is so bright, it’s awful when you want to see other things,” he said.

But when the moon wanes, most everyone can identify the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, also known as the Big and Little Dipper. Patterson recommended in-the-sky.org as an easy internet guide to the night sky. Users plug in their location and can request visual levels – naked eye, binoculars or telescope.

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