EYES TO THE SKY
June 24 -July 7, 2019
Country nightlife, fleeting Mercury, celestial triangle
Upon opening the door and stepping over the threshold into the darkness at solstice time, this stargazer, visiting in the countryside, is bathed in wild sounds of trilling toads and tree frogs. A universe of musical sound coming from a nearby pond fills the airwaves around me. Simultaneously, star-like flashes, brilliant pulses emitted by insects – fireflies, lightning bugs – are blinking on and off above the ground and up to the treetops. Waves of light and incandescent streamers float on the air and vanish. I am in the midst of communities of animals communicating with each other, loudly. All humans live at the edges of wildlife habitat that is inside and beside human neighborhoods.
Stargazing begins about 4 hours later at summer solstice time than around the winter solstice! Sunset, now the latest of the year, 8:31pm in our locale, is followed by a long, lingering twilight. Nightfall is not until about 10:35. In between, an hour to an hour and a quarter after sundown, the brightest stars and planets are visible.
First, search for Mercury in the west. See the illustration. It is a challenge to spot Mercury and a triumph when we do. Look with binoculars. Mercury dims and sets earlier everyday. Look today!
Locate bright orange star, Arcturus, close to zenith in the southwest. To Arcturus’ left, spot bright Vega. Drop your gaze between the two, where, shining 22 degrees above the south-southeast horizon, brightest of all, is planet Jupiter. Note the large equilateral triangle shaped by Vega, Arcturus and Jupiter.
Opportunity to Participate
July 26 – August 4, Summer Star Party, overnight camping in Plainfield, Massachusetts
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