This month you will notice that there is a picture of a star field included with the column. It encompasses the summer triangle in its entirety. The circled star at the far left is Deneb at the tail of the Swan constellation Cygnus. The star circled at middle top is Vega in the constellation Lyra. The 3rd star at the bottom right is Altair in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. After the long summer evening has darkened enough, look approximately straight up and right in the middle of the band of the Milky Way. These 3 bright stars should be prominent amongst all the others. Compare what you see with the picture and hopefully the summer triangle will pop right out. Vega, especially, is very bright. Cygnus is a favourite sight in the sky for me. With binoculars, a large number of star formations can be seen as you traverse the Swan from its tail to its beak. I have even named my observatory after this large beautiful constellation – Cygnus Hill Observatory. In future columns, I will experiment with wider fields of view for pictures. I’ll also try hand drawn illustrations and drawings. This column only has so much space but I know that together we will find out what works best. Please send me your feedback and suggestions so I can work with you to make traveling the night sky an easier trip.
And now for the gardening section of this column. I bought some flowers for the porch recently. They caught my eye at the garden center. Petunias come in all sorts of colours but this planter was filled with dark blue flowers that looked as though someone had splashed spots of white paint on them. I took them home and showed them to my wife. She asked me if they had a name. Don’t know I said, Petunias? She read the tag. They were called ‘Night Sky’ petunias. Beautiful!
The Milky way arcs over the zenith of the sky for the next couple of months. It’s an ideal binocular sky with plenty of objects to be seen. Near the southern horizon is the asterism called the Tea Pot. It’s part of the constellation Sagittarius. Off the spout of the Tea Pot is the centre of our galaxy wherein lies a Black Hole that is more than a million times the mass of our Sun. An asterism is a grouping of stars that looks like an everyday object. Another example would be the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. Following the band of the Milky way up to the zenith and past the summer triangle, we find Cepheus. It looks like a child’s drawing of a house. As we descend to the northern horizon, we encounter the ‘W’ shape of Cassiopeia and then the double cluster of stars at the tip of the arrow of Perseus. Definitely a spectacular binocular view.
July 3: Earth is at its most distant orbital point (aphelion) from the Sun – 94.5 million miles (151,000 kilometers). I always get a kick out of the fact that at mid-summer we are as far from the Sun as we ever get. At mid-winter, we are closest (perihelion).
July 6: The Moon is at apogee – 252,230 miles (403,568 kilometers). The Moon is 3 degrees north of Saturn around 11 pm.
July 9: July’s Full Moon is called the Full Buck Moon. The antlers of deer bucks are heading for full growth. Another name is the Full Thunder Moon due to the frequent thunderstorms in July – we’ve had our share. I prefer calling this Full Moon the Full Maggie Moon – my girl dog pal Maggie heads for the bathroom to hide in the tub. Her weather forecasts are incredibly accurate!
July 20: The crescent Moon passes just south of Venus around 7 pm – day time observer challenge. Venus will be obvious in the east before sunrise.
July 21: The Moon is at perigee -224,462 miles (359,139 kilometers).
July 28: The Moon is 3 degrees north of Jupiter around 4 pm. See if you can find Jupiter below it. Consider this another day time observing challenge. Binoculars are a definite help.
July 30: The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks. Its radiant is in Aquarius which is low above the southern horizon. The Moon sets before midnight on the 30th so good meteor observing should be had by all. Meteors from this shower will be observable from early July through August. There is some overlap with the Perseid meteor shower that peaks in mid-August.
.Keep looking up!
“The Beginners Observing Guide” by Leo Enright is an invaluable companion for adventures in the night sky. It contains star charts and is packed with information. It can be purchased at the Sharbot Lake pharmacy or it can be ordered from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at www.rasc.ca/publications. A subscription to our very own excellent Canadian astronomy magazine “SkyNews”, with its centerfold sky chart, can be ordered at the RASC site as well.
Clear Skies! Fred.