Highlights for the July Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins @ Waterville Estates
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting.
Go outside tonight and discover the treasures of the Night Sky
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary line in the sky called the ecliptic.
Dusk and into the night:
Jupiter & Saturn, our two gas giants, are back with us in the night-time sky after a six month absence. The two are paired at their biggest and brightest all night ling. Look for both in the SE. Jupiter will be shinning at magnitude (-2.7). This is not as bright as Venus was in June but still bright.
Venus, at magnitude (-4.7) rises in the E 2 ½ hours before the Sun. Because Venus is so bright it is extremely easy to spot at sunrise.
The Moon is full on July 5th and the new Moon occurs on the 20th.
Stars and Constellations:
Our focus for July is the constellation Scorpius. The form that Scorpius makes in the sky actually looks like the deadly scorpion. Look for it in the south fairly close to the horizon. You can’t miss the star Antares, sometimes called the “rival of Mars” because of its bloody red color. It is the brightest star in the grouping and is a red “super giant” star, just like Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion which we talked about last winter. Antares represents the head of the scorpion with its tail extending down towards the horizon. Since very early times this constellation has represented death, darkness and evil.
The constellation Sagittarius is to the left of Scorpius. Most people today refer to it as the “teapot”. In the diagram you can see the spout, handle and lid.
High overhead look for the constellation Hercules. Just focus however on the keystone of four stars which form a quadrilateral and forget the rest. The ancient Greeks and before them the Persians saw this grouping of stars as a kneeling man. However, this was before we had outdoor lighting.
- Refer to the diagram from Chet Raymo’s book, 365 Starry Nights
For hundreds of millions of years Earth has nurtured a spectacular diversity of lifeforms, including humans. So, what is going on with the rest of our galaxy? Are there intelligent alien civilizations out there in our Milky Way, and if so, how many?
The answer to the second question is 36, more or less, according to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal. This is only a statistical estimate however, not an announcement that we have stumbled across three dozen civilizations in the galaxy.
The conclusions of the study are speculative and there is no rush to pledge allegiance to any alien neighbors as of yet.
Comment / Factoid of the Month:
Before the advent of electric light, our ancestors experienced a night sky brimming with stars. Today however the night sky is rapidly becoming unknown to the newest generations. In fact, millions of children across the globe will never see the Milky Way from their own homes. The glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars. There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime. It may make us feel safer but it does not make us safer. The truth is bad outdoor lighting can decrease safety by making victims and property easier to see.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead
- com (The evening sky map for the month)
- nasa.gov (Sign up for alerts for the International Space Station passing overhead.