Astrophotographer Mihail Minkov’s Star Catcher placed first in the International Dark Sky Association’s “Connecting to the Dark” category of IDA’s first annual photography competition, “Capture the Dark”. Minkov accompanied the photograph with this statement: “I have a four-year-old daughter. She is fascinated by the planets, stars and the Milky Way. So I decided to make her part of the process and try to show her what it’s like to be out under the dark sky, and see the beauty of the night sky. I hope that one day she will remember that and this memory will make her care for the planet and the night sky.”
These starry summer nights, the picture could be of you or me or children in our care.
On a recent sojourn in the countryside, facing southeast over a meadow alight with blinking, streaming fireflies, I looked up to discover bright planet Jupiter close above the horizon. Barred owls exchanged their hooting bark “who cooks for you?” It was just before 10 o’clock. Today, the 13th, Jupiter (-2.73 magnitude) rises at 8:23pm; an hour earlier on the 26th. To Jupiter’s left, dimmer Saturn (0.12 m) rises at 8:43pm on the 13th; nearly an hour earlier on the 26th. Allow about an hour after sunset for bright celestial objects to be visible and an hour and a half to two hours after sunset for dimmer stars and constellations.
Whether stargazing from a window or setting out at nightfall, find a clear view to the southeast horizon. Or wait for the celestial show to come to you. The planets and stars are moving from east to west. Around midnight, the planets show up in the south; before dawn, southwest.
Above and to the left of the planets find the great Summer Triangle: Altair (0.75 m) appears 20 degrees above Jupiter; brighter Vega (0.00 m) a 30 degree leap above Altair and dimmer Deneb (1.25 m) a stretch to the left of Vega. Search out a bright star to the right of Vega, in the southwest, it is golden Arcturus (-0.07 m).
The star-like object the child in the photograph looks to could also be planet Venus, the third brightest object in Earth’s skies, after the Sun and moon. See Venus (-4.47 m), now the Morning Star, in the east between about 3:30am and 4:50am.