FLORENCE, S.C. – The Dooley Planetarium on the campus of Francis Marion University and the university’s observatory will hold programs in conjunction with the observance of National Dark Sky Week, April 1-8.
The observatory will hold a public viewing session, Saturday, April 5, from 8 to 10 p.m., while the planetarium will feature a program titled “Savoring the Night,” Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m.
Admission to both programs is free. The planetarium is located on the second floor of the Cauthen Educational Media Center. The FMU observatory is located beyond the outfield fence of the FMU Softball Field, south of the Smith University Center. Visitors can park in Lot D at the southern end of the campus and follow the walkway to the observatory.
National Dark Sky Week is intended to promote awareness of the problem of light pollution, an ever-increasing concern both worldwide and in the Pee Dee Region. Light pollution is the "glow" of the atmosphere as a result of outdoor lighting that can obscure the beauty of the universe. It can screen out everything beyond Earth's atmosphere.
In addition to raising public awareness, the week is intended to inspire people to use better lighting systems that provide effective lighting on the ground, but emit less light upward into the atmosphere. The International Dark-Sky Association provides information about how this can be achieved while reducing the power needed for outdoor lighting.
The FMU astronomy program has completed a program to reduce light pollution in the vicinity of the FMU Observatory, thereby offering a relatively dark sky where the public can see distant galaxies.
The loosely structured observatory viewing program allows visitors to come and go as they please. If weather conditions block viewing, the session will be canceled. The public may call 843-661-1355 for recorded information about the prospect of a clear sky to allow the event to be held.
The planetarium program will open with a portrayal of the current evening sky before embarking on a multimedia tour of the universe. The issue of light pollution will then be addressed by a movie written and narrated by well-known comet hunter David Levy, and produced with assistance from the International Dark-Sky Association.
Following the regular schedule of planetarium programs on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, “Savoring the Night” will be repeated April 27.
The International Dark-Sky Association webpages are located at http://www.darksky.org
For more information about the Dooley Planetarium or the FMU Observatory, visit their website at http://astro.fmarion.edu
For additional information about planetarium programs or observatory viewing sessions, call director John Mattox at 843-661-1441.