Environment & Science

100 Hours of Astronomy event takes place this weekend

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If you can find a place that isn't cloudy, you can take advantage of the 100 Hours of Astronomy event. It's a series of events through the weekend meant to bring the cosmos to those of us on terra firma. KPCC's Shirley Jahad talked with Michael Simmons, the event's international co-chair.

Michael Simmons: This is the biggest event of its kind that's ever taken place before. Nothing's really been tried on this scale in this kind of a concentrated way. We hope that we'll have as many as a million people look through a telescope for the first time around the world during this event.

Thousands of telescopes, tens of thousands at least set up around the world, as well as Los Angeles, but also in developing countries. On every continent, including Antarctica, for people to go and look through. And it's our 24 hour global star party.

Shirley Jahad: Tell us how it works. Where are these telescopes gonna be set up in terms of opportunities for people here in Southern California.

Simmons: Well, there will be telescopes set up in places, all different kinds of places. There will be, some will be parks, some will be at libraries, it's very common, shopping centers. Almost any place where people congregate.

Sidewalk astronomy is sometimes called guerrilla astronomy. People set up their telescopes and tell people to come on and look at the Moon, or look at Saturn, which are the two main objects for the night.

Jahad: So, the moon and Saturn. What are people going to be able to see when they look through those telescopes?

Simmons: Any size telescope can show you some really amazing things on the Moon, and the rings of Saturn. On the Moon, you'll see craters and mountains. It's really quite extraordinary. It doesn't take much at all to see these things.

Jahad: Tell us about the 24 hour video webcast event around the world.

Simmons: It's called "80 Telescopes Around the World," and there are 80 different observatories, including the world's largest, including the control rooms of the space telescopes, like Hubble, for example. From one to another, again, it starts and it sweeps around the world, a chance to look in on everything, and that'll be streamed live.

Jahad: What do you want people to come away with after your hundred hours of astronomy?

Simmons: Well, most of us now live in cities, and there is light that keeps us from actually seeing the stars anymore, and we've sort of lost touch with that. But astronomy is a part of many of the sciences, many of the industries, and also a part of every single culture.

And people have sort of lost touch with that in many ways, and so the whole idea is to make people aware of what's going on, and also what's available to them. When they get a look through a telescope for the first time at something like Saturn or some craters on the Moon, they really find it just unbelievable.

It's just mind-blowing. It's something that nobody ever thought they'd be able to see. And that can change your perspective on things quite a bit. That there's, we're just part of this one very much larger system, and you can experience some of that yourself.