At the first sight of the clearing, I was wonderstruck by an aerial display of countless blinking golden lights and dipping, curving, white gold lines streaking all over the meadow from the ground up to the treetops. Exhilarated by the commotion, I caught my breath in recognition of the return of fireflies. It occurred to me that there must be a significance to the appearance of lightning bugs at the time of the Summer Solstice.
In a country cabin on a clear night last week, I was on my way to bed at about 11 o’clock when I made a detour to the front door. If the stars and planets are so bright that you spot them from a window, the allure of the rest of the sky is irresistible, like thirst.
From the doorstep, above a forest to the south-southwest, brilliant Jupiter (-2.38 magnitude) beckoned. Looking up from Jupiter, orange-hued Arcturus (-.07m) glowed brighter than the surrounding stars. To see more of the sky, I set out on foot on a lane through hemlock woods and towering red oaks, headed for a clearing with a vista to the south and east.
I lifted my gaze to Scorpius the Scorpion, the constellation that dominates the southern skyline on summer evenings. Its red heart star, Antares (1.03m) appears below and to the right of the waxing gibbous moon (-12.58m) on June 25. Planet Saturn (0.02m), bright white to yellowish, is below and to the left of Antares. Red Mars (-2.00m) appears below and to the left of Saturn. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars can be seen as marks along a shallow arc from southeast to southwest. Bear in mind that Mars rises around 11pm in the southeast on the 25th. Both Mars and Saturn are visible in the south to southwest before dawn.
For those who are tucked between the covers well before 11 o’clock, the great, star like light of planet Venus (-4.03m) shines in the west at dusk until after 10pm. Planet Mercury, -0.33m on June 25, is below Venus, too close to the horizon to see with the naked eye. Mercury sets by 10 pm.
Resources / Take Action
Fireflies are vulnerable to light pollution
Opportunity to Participate
August 10 – 19 Star Party in the Berkshires
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