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2009 is the International Year of Astronomy and in many places it will be a double celebration with Astronomy Day which this year is Saturday, May 2. Now observed annually it was not until 1973 that Astronomy Day was first celebrated by a California group of star gazers. It does not have a firm date but is always on Saturday between mid-April and mid-May at or just before the first quarter moon. The National Headquarters for Astronomy Day is located in Comstock Park, Michigan.

If the weather cooperates, Saturday night would be a great time to take your family to a spot free of artificial lighting, set up a telescope or use binoculars to explore the night skies. Long before humans began their conquest of space, earthlings were inspired to invent stories about all those bright shimmering lights filling the dark heavens. Today’s youngsters enjoy those stories too.

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Recently I read that scientists are puzzled because our native ladybug species seems to be disappearing. Before the Asian ladybugs were imported our ladybugs did a fine job of munching destructive aphids. However, the Asians ate fruit mites which did awful damage to orchards and after the Asian ladybug was brought in very little spraying was needed. Yes, they did what they were imported to do but they also became winter pests as they squeezed into our warm homes. This was unexpected but now it is too late. Also too late is the suspicion that these new beetles are the reason our native ladybugs are disappearing.

Entomologists at two universities are investigating through the Lost Ladybug Project and they are asking for help from the public. They want pictures of ladybugs. You can learn more at www.lostladybug.org if you are interested in helping. The professionals are turning to the public to help in many nature problems. They call it “citizen science” and the director of Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology has praise for how much information from the public has helped in their research. It began with the bird counts and this year they have a new program called NestWatch. Those participating visit nests several times a week and report what they see.

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Green, green, our world has turned green. More and more products have added green to their labels and advertising. The trouble is just because the consumer sees the word green they have no guidelines to check if it true. Housewives have known and respected the Good Housekeeping Seal for 100 years. It was designed all those years ago to protect consumers against false claims and tainted products. They pledged that if a product had their seal of approval and was found defective it would be replaced or there would be a refund.

In the April issue of Good Housekeeping came the announcement that they will give a second seal designated green to those products claiming to be eco-friendly. At their Good Housekeeping Research Institute the first tests will be on beauty and cleaning products. Those that pass the original standard tests then must pass additional testing on energy efficiency, packaging reduction and water quality. Later this year we will see the Good Housekeeping green seal for the first time.