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Stargazers flee light pollution to reach for stars

By Tan Weiyun   (Shanghai Daily)

08:57, October 17, 2012

A pupil from the Zhu Liwen Primary School observes the stars through a telescope during Luo Fangyang's volunteer astronomy class in Taicang, Jiangsu Province.(Shanghai Daily)

Star-struck amateur astronomers in the Celestial Kingdom pack their telescopes, hit the road and flee the light pollution in Shanghai to get an inspiring look at the night sky. They cheer plans to build a planetarium. Tan Weiyun reports.

They gaze up at the nighttime sky, marvel at the magnificent galaxies and nebulae and take photos of celestial bodies and events. They chase eclipses across China and chart the motions of the stars.

By day they are teachers, engineers, office workers and other professionals. But by night, when it's clear, they pick up their telescopes and duffle bags, jump in the car and head to remote open fields and hills, far from the air pollution and light pollution in the downtown.

The whole night is spent observing the solar system, other galaxies and constellations.

Better yet, they plan in advance for a few clear nights and take a trip to set up their equipment; that can mean heading off to a particularly good spot to camp and await a dramatic eclipse of the sun or moon and other celestial phenomena.

These stargazers in a star-besotted city hate the bright lights and pollution that make it impossible to observe and appreciate the heavens as their ancestors did.

Plans to build the city's first planetarium (Shanghai Daily October 11) are heartening but won't change the viewing habits of these amateur astronomers who prefer to rough it on a clear night. Then there are those who ponder astrophysics and prefer to sit at their home computers and study the heavens.

It has not been decided where the planetarium will be built or when ground will be broken. The Shanghai Astronomical Observatory Songjiang Observation Station in suburban Songjiang District, better known as Sheshan Observatory, is a history museum, though its telescope is also used for research. It's a popular place for student field trips, though it's not a haven for astronomy geeks, Trekkies and UFO hunters.

Art designer Wu Jingping just returned from Tianhuangping Village in Zhejiang Province, a popular site for astronomical observation. There are few buildings, spacious fields and little artificial light.

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