July 24 – August 6, 2017
Mount Washington — Open the door, step into the gentle air where fireflies lift, dip and blink to the bullfrog’s bellow and grey frog’s trill under a soft blue sky. About half an hour after sunset, brilliant Jupiter is the first heavenly light turned on. While the sky is still blue, the planet appears like a star, a luminous white beacon in the southwest. As sunlight fades from Earth’s atmosphere and dusk deepens, the golden light of true star Arcturus, summer’s brightest, comes into view above Jupiter. Then, with a turn to the left, south-southeast, yellowish Saturn appears, rising above the hilly skyline.
Look up and to the left of Saturn where Vega, the brightest star in the Summer Triangle, has emerged. Meanwhile to the right of Saturn, red Antares–the heart star of Scorpius the Scorpion–takes its place, creating a pairing that parallels the appearance of Spica to the left of Jupiter.
All the while, bullfrogs are sounding–nighttime’s mooing cows–and fireflies lift, dip and blink. The Summer Triangle is complete when Altair lights up to the right and below Vega and Deneb appears below and left of Vega, in the east-northeast.
Today and tomorrow, July 24 and 25, while gazing at Jupiter in the southwest soon after sunset, a fleeting drama takes place in the west, to the planet’s right. On the 24th, the moon begins its new cycle as a faint crescent below planet Mercury and Leo the Lion’s heart star, Regulus. With clear skies and a clear view to the western horizon where the threesome is setting, they may be visible with the aid of binoculars. Tomorrow, the 25th, affords a second, perhaps better chance of catching a variation of this challenging, fleeting phenomenon. Note that sunset is at 8:21 tonight and tomorrow, with moonset 9:18 and 9:58 respectively.
During the period of evening crescent moons with dark, moonless late nights, we’re more likely to see shooting stars. The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower, a minor event in the north, peaks the night of July 29 with 15 to 20 dim meteors per hour predicted between midnight and about 4 a.m. with no interference from moonlight. Southern Aquarids are around through August 23. The Perseid shower, our most significant meteor shower, peaks August 11-12 or 12-13 this year, however, only the brightest shooting stars will be visible due to the light of the waning gibbous moon. Nonetheless, that could amount to 40-50 meteors per hour. The Perseid shower is active now through August 24. Saturday night the 29th into the pre-dawn hours of the 30th might be a good time to catch shooting stars from both showers.
Opportunities to Participate
Now through July 30, in Plainfield: Summer Star Party, overnight camping – http://rocklandastronomy.com/ssp.html
Attempt to see new satellite Mayak – http://www.heavens-above.com/PassSummary.aspx?satid=42830