Valley residents lined up at precisely 8 p.m. Saturday to look at the stars through telescopes at the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix.
The event was timed to coincide with Earth Hour, a global effort to get people to turn off their lights for 60 minutes in order to raise consciousness about climate change. Stargazers from across the Valley also saw the event as a rare chance to enjoy a dark night from the heart of the nation’s fifth-largest city.
Members of the Saguaro Astronomy Club volunteered their time to teach about astronomy and explain how the night’s sky is affected by poor environmental practices, said Ashley Carter, a spokeswoman at the Arizona Science Center.
Tim Jones, a member of the Saguaro club, said he used to be able to see the stars from his backyard, but he has found it increasingly difficult with all the light pollution that makes it hard to see stars through a telescope.
“The idea is to see the effect reducing light could have on the carbon footprint,” Jones said.
Tempe resident Jennifer Polakis, vice president of the Saguaro club, said she hopes people learn to conserve energy and realize that simply dimming or covering outdoor light sources will make a difference.
Saguaro club member Jimmy Ray of Glendale measured the darkness in the sky with a device called a sky quality meter. He said he noticed a darker sky, but he said further readings would be necessary for him to confirm his observations.
Meg Pearce, director of Earth Hour USA, said the purpose of Earth Hour is to bring awareness to climate change and to show that by working together, each person can make a positive impact on a global issue. She said participation this year seemed to be strong worldwide.
“Our focus is really on raising awareness,” Pearce said.
Earth Hour, created by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, was expected to draw in more than 200 cities from around the globe and more than 100 cities across North America this year, according to earthhourus.org.
Valley residents had positive things to say about the event.
“I think it’s great,” said Marge Daniels of Mesa. “We don’t run any more lights than we have to.”
Daniels and her husband, Roger, said they have begun to replace their light bulbs with more energy efficient ones.