Fred Barrett | Jul 03, 2019
This month marks a truly historic anniversary of an event which is arguably one of the most historic achievements of humanity – landing human beings for the first time on another world. Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon on July 20th, 1969. Their Command Module Pilot Michael Collins continued orbiting the Moon to act as base centre for the mission. I say all of humanity because this tremendous accomplishment was the result of decades, even centuries of work by many dedicated Scientists, Engineers and artistically original thinkers from all over the world who used their minds to think far ahead. The names are too many to list but they include the women, human computers basically, who derived difficult orbital solutions to guide the spacecraft to their destinations, to engineers who thought way outside the box to find ways to make the technology live up to what needed to be done, to politicians who had a vision, to those scientists who bravely fought to accomplish what our curiosity and resolve believed could be done. We take cell phones and all our electronics for granted today but the Apollo program used integrated circuits for the first time to miniaturize the first miniature computer to use as a fly by wire control system for the Apollo navigation and landing on the Moon. I still remember the thrill I felt watching the landing on my parents black and white TV. Ironically after a few more landings on the Moon, the program was terminated and we have not ventured farther than near Earth orbit since then. But there is hope. NASA is initiating an ambitious return to the Moon and eventually to Mars. Commercial companies have designed rockets that regularly supply the International Space Station. Believe me, we must become a space faring civilization. There is so much ‘stuff’ whizzing around out in space that, like the dinosaurs, our time may be limited unless we have the capability to venture beyond our planet and even beyond our Solar System.
Saturn is providing a fantastic display of its rings this month. It’s visible mostly all night. Jupiter is equally stunning. About mid month they can both be found about midnight near and slightly above the constellation Sagittarius in the south southeast. It helps to have a clear horizon in that direction. Watch for Jupiter’s dancing Moons. Mars and Mercury are lost in twilight at sunset. Venus can be seen just before dawn washes it out in the northeast. We have one meteor shower this month, the Delta Aquariid shower. Its peak is between July 28 and the 30th. This is at the time of the new Moon so moonlight won’t interfere with observing. The radiant is in the constellation Aquarius which is low in the south and this far north will obscure some of the meteors. So instead of a predicted 25/hr we may see less than that.
Don’t forget that there are many of the most beautiful constellations in the sky at this time of year. I know the bugs can be bad and daylight is long and the nights are short but get your binoculars or scopes out and take advantage of beautiful night skies. It’s worth it. I use Deet based anti insect spray but be careful because some damage can occur to the plastic or rubber parts of your equipment.
July 2nd: New Moon occurs.
July 4th: The Moon passes a bit north of Mars at 2 am and 3 degrees north of Mercury at 5 am. The Earth is at Aphelion (farthest from the Sun) – 51.2 million kilometers (94.5 million miles).
July 5th: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth) – 361,600 Kilometers.
July 9th: Saturn is at opposition.
July 16th: The Moon passes a fraction of a degree south of Saturn at 3 am. It will be a Full Moon. This Moon is known as the Full Buck Moon. Buck deer start growing their antlers. It’s also known as the Full Thunder Moon. Thunder storms are most common now – as past destruction of my computers and electronics will attest to. TURN OFF your stuff if you hear the slightest chance of a thunder storm forecast!
Juy 20th: The moon is at apogee (farthest from Earth) – 403,126 Kilometers.
July 30th: Delta Aquariid shower peaks.
July 31: New Moon.
It’s a great month for astronomy so ‘Keep looking up’!
“The Beginner’s Observing Guide by Leo Enright is an invaluable companion for adventures in the sky. It also contains useful star charts. 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” can be arranged at the RASC website as well.
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