On the 4th Night

              Happy   4th of   July!!                     

jul4-aphelion   Friday 4 July is not only the day we in the United States of America celebrate our country’s Independence Day, it is also the day that the Earth reaches aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun. For the record we are closest to the Sun, perihelion, around the beginning of January.
   So despite the summer heat, humidity, and a late sunset there will be more in the skies this 4th than just fireworks.
 At around sunset look low toward the western horizon for 3 stars arranged in a short diagonal line. No it is not Orion’s Belt. The one on the lower left side is the planet Jupiter near the Gemini Twin stars.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

 The nearly first quarter Moon is over the southwestern horizon and is just to the west (right) from the planet Mars and the bluish-white star Spica.
 Both Mars and Spica are close enough so that they fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
 Look left from this pair and higher above the southern horizon for the planet Saturn, one of 4 planets in our solar system with rings.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   If your viewing area is under dark enough skies, away from the light-polluted metropolitan area, then look toward the eastern horizon for the glow of the Milky Way as it rises. The teapot shape asterism for Sagittarius is above the southern horizon throughout this month and if the Milky Way is visible it looks like steam rising from the teapot’s spot. This graphic shows the location of Dwarf Planet Pluto. Pluto is also at opposition. Opposition for an outer planet is an arrangement of objects like a full Moon in that at opposition an outer planet is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
   While it is too dim to see with the unaided eye or even binoculars it is a neat idea to think about what Pluto looks like. I say this (actually write) because around this time next year NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft will be flying past Pluto sending back our first truly good look at this very distant solar system object.

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Scorpion Grabs the Moon

25 May - 11 pm CDT

25 May – 11 pm CDT

   This evening as the full Moon rises in the east it will be in the grasp of the Scorpion’s pincers as this graphic shows. Just below the Moon is the reddish ‘anti-Mars’, Antares, the heart of the Scorpion. I say ‘anti-Mars or more correctly anti-Ares as the name given to this reddish star was meant to distinguish it from the similarly reddish colored planet Mars. Ares is the Greek name for Mars.
   Over the next several evenings the Moon will be rising about an hour later each evening and will be further east from where it is today. Were it not for the bright reflected light coming off the Moon it would be possible to appreciate this area of the starry skies as this is where the Milky Way is very visible arcing down toward the south horizon from nearly overhead. aug25Looking toward the tail of the Scorpion is looking toward the center of our galaxy, some 20,000-30,000 light years away. It is also in this part of the sky where there are many nebula and star clusters visible to the naked-eye and binoculars. Best views of this part of the sky will come later during northern hemisphere summer months as this sneak peek at this part of the sky during August shows.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.