Have you heard of the "Earth Hour" project? It's an international idea, promoted by the World Wildlife Fund, to expand awareness of climate change. At 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, everyone is asked to turn off their lights for one hour. The effort is to create a "wave of participation."
More than 1,000 cities and towns in 80 countries - from Paris to Las Vegas - had signed up by March 12. Although no one expects these communities to go completely dark, residents should get a rare view of the night sky as dusk ends around 9 p.m., a welcome side effect.
Earlier this month La Plata County commissioners signed a proclamation encouraging residents to take part. And fortunately for us, here in the rural Southwest, we can enjoy a dark sky most any clear night.
You won't have to wait for dark to get the best view of Mercury this year during mid- and late April. Look for it near the western horizon shortly after sunset. By April 26, when the innermost planet reaches its greatest eastern elongation, it will linger above the horizon 1 hour and 45 minutes after the sun.
Binoculars or a small telescope might reveal its tiny crescent. The much larger crescent moon will be nearby on the 25th and 26th.
The moon has a bigger role to play on the morning of April 21. It will pass between Earth and Venus, occulting our neighboring planet. Such occultations are always interesting sights.
This one begins about 6:15 a.m., just a few minutes before sunrise, so the sky will be rather bright in the east where the event can be seen. Binoculars will be a big help, and they'll be essential to view the end of the event when Venus reappears at 7:09.
Several hours earlier, the Lyrid meteor shower will peak, and the moon won't be around to interfere. Typically a mediocre shower, it could yield better-than-average meteors thanks to the moonless sky.
Our nights are getting a little warmer now, so if it's clear, have a look between midnight and 4:30 a.m.
Since you're up, have a look at Saturn. It's the only naked-eye planet high in the night sky. It's been a fixture in Leo for nearly three years and will linger there until this September.
Look for the ringed planet well up in the southeastern sky after dark (around 10 p.m.). The nearly full moon will be nearby on April 6.
The largest planet in our system, Jupiter, and the diminutive red planet, Mars, can be found in the east, along with Venus, before dawn. Jupiter is in Capricornus and rises a little before 5 a.m. in early April and a little after 3 a.m. by month's end.
Mars will be much harder to find. It's in Aquarius and rises a little before 6 a.m. on April 1. It will gradually move toward Venus and rise an hour earlier by April 30.
Lewis McCool gazes at stars through a 10-inch Dobsonian from his Dolores home.