WCCO weatherman gives class on stargazing

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 04/01/97.

"I'll have to learn to respect rush hour traffic," Mike Lynch, WCCO radio's weatherman said as he arrived to a packed seminar room for his stargazing class last Tuesday at the Paynesville Area High School.

Lynch has taught stargazing classes since 1973, and has been with WCCO radio for 16 years. "Before that, I was halking beer at Met Stadium," he joked.

Before everyone went outside to view the different star groups, Lynch began by asking the class the definition of a constellation. "It's a group of stars that usually don't look like what they're called," he said. There are 88 different constellations that can be seen throughout the world, 66 of those in Minnesota. The reason people see different constellations at different times of the year is because the Earth turns on it's axis, and is also in orbit around the sun.

"The full moon is the enemy of stargazers," Lynch said. The light reflected from the moon makes it difficult to see the stars in the night sky. Another tip for stargazers is to never use halogen flashlights when reading a star chart. The white light reflected off the page is often too bright and can cause a person to be unable to see the stars at all. Red light flashlights are much better when looking from a paper star chart into the night sky.

Lynch handed out a map of the stars visible during late March and April. Initially, class members thought east and west had been mistakingly written on the wrong sides, until they realized the maps were meant to be held over their heads.

Along with the much publicized comet Hale-Bopp, Orion, a constellation named after a mythological hunter, but actually resembling a bow tie, was one of the more visible in Tuesday night's sky.

Canis Major, which looked sort of like a stick figure dog if you had a good imagination, was also visible. Class members born between May 21 and June 20 were able to see the inspiration for their astrological sign, Gemini. The twin stars, Pollux and Castor, shined bright at the head of the constellation. Everyone was pleased to see Bootes, the herdsman, to the east; when Bootes is visible it's a sure sign of spring.

Both the adults and youngsters not only found an enjoyable and informative way to spend a March evening, but also found an activity they can do all year-round.

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