Summer 2022

 

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2022 is the summer of morning planets!  Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus are all quite prominent, with Mercury stopping by in June.  Throughout the summer, get up early to see the weeks where the Moon drives by the planets, and maybe catch a few meteors in August, as some of the planets return to the evening skies.

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night. 

 

Naked-eye PLANETS

Sunset – only in August

  • Mercury – All of August, look W right after sunset and you might be able to catch Mercury less than 10˚ above the horizon, the first “star” appearing at dusk in that direction.
  • Saturn – The beginning of the ringed planet’s nightfall appearance schedule is August. August 1st it rises at 9:30pm in the ESE, and is already up in the SE about 10˚ above the horizon at month’s end.

Throughout the night – Saturn & Jupiter – about 45˚ apart

  • Saturn – Saturn starts rising before midnight in the SE in July and August, and will be visible into the mornings all summer off in the SW.
  • Jupiter – Jupiter starts rising before midnight in the SE around mid-July, and will be visible into the morning all summer off toward the South.

Morning – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn ALL SUMMER

The basic setup for the 3 months is, from left to right, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, all easily visible in the morning sky.  They start June within 70˚ of each other from East to South, ending August with Venus and Saturn on complete opposite sides of the sky.   How far apart are they from each other?  Below are the measurements between each planet in the lineup, on the 1st of each month.

June 1:   Venus – 28˚ – Mars –   2˚ – Jupiter – 38˚ – Saturn

Mercury – joins the party for much of June, getting to within 10˚ of Venus mid-month. Just look down and to the left of Venus.

July 1:   Venus – 42˚ – Mars – 20˚ – Jupiter – 43˚ – Saturn

August 1: Venus – 60˚ – Mars – 40˚ – Jupiter – 45˚ – Saturn

August 31: Venus – 77˚ – Mars – 60˚ – Jupiter – 46˚ – Saturn

  • Venus (E) – will be consistently about 10˚ above the Eastern horizon and hard to miss. As the brightest object in the morning sky, it will blaze as a “morning star”.
  • Mars – Reddish Mars starts right next to Jupiter, but Jupiter moves away, while Mars creeps ever closer to Taurus throughout the summer, ending up between the V of Taurus and the Pleiades by August 31st.
  • Jupiter ­– Hanging out around Pisces, be sure to find the Galilean Moons, notice their motion day by day, or even hour by hour, or even look up when to see one of its moon’s shadows transits the planet.
  • Saturn – Hanging out in the corner of Capricornus, find a friend with a telescope and stare at its rings, made up of rocks and dust the size of pebbles to the size of a car.

 

EVENTS

Evening Crescents (look West after Sunset)

First Quarter Moon – June 7th/July 6th/August 5th (Visible until midnight)

Evening Gibbous (Mostly lit, after Sunset)

Full Moon – June 14th/July 13th/August 11th (Visible all night)

Waning Gibbous (Mostly lit, rises later at night)

Last Quarter Moon – June 20th/July 20th/August 19th (Visible midnight into the morning)

Morning Crescents (look East in the AM)

New Moon – June 28th/July 28th/August 27th (darkest skies)

 

June 1st CONJUNCTION – Jupiter, Mars –  Jupiter is less than 2˚ away from Mars in the ESE.  You can start seeing them after 3am.

June 17th - 27thJune’s Lunar Close Encounters – Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus – The Moon joins the sunrise planet party, starting near Saturn on the 17th and ending to the left of Mercury on the 27th.

June 21stSummer Solstice – This is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  There’s a bit of explanation as to why here.

July 15th – 16th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Saturn –  The Moon is down and to the right of Saturn on the 15th, and down and to the left of Saturn on the 16th.  Visible starting 10:45pm due SE.

July 19th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Jupiter –  The Moon is down and to the left of Jupiter by just 4˚.  Visible starting 12:30am due East.

July 21st CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Mars –  The Moon is just 3˚ to the right of Mars.  Visible starting 1:15am due East.

July 26th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Venus – A wonderfully thin crescent Moon will be just 4˚ above bright Venus.  Visible starting 4:15am due East.

August 11th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Saturn –  The Full Moon is just 5˚ below Saturn. Visible after sunset in the SE.

August 11th – 12thPerseid Meteor Shower – Not a great year for the Perseids, given the very full Moon.  In decent skies, you could watch 60 meteors per hour, and you should be able to see some very bright ones here and there the week before and after.  However, the light pollution from the Moon will interfere with many of them, as well as your night vision.  But, that doesn’t mean you should give up.  You never know when a really bright one will light up the sky. Remember, you’re seeing the bits of dust left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up as they crash into the atmosphere at 37 miles per second.

Some advice for watching:

    Find a dark location and lie down in a reclining chair or hammock

    Look toward Perseus (In the NE, rises throughout the night until sunrise where it will be almost directly above.)  That is where the radiant is - where the meteors will appear to be coming from.

    The strategy to observe this year is to get out there whenever you can, but the later you stay up, the more you’ll see, since the radiant will be higher.  The shower is usually technically active from mid-July to late August, so you may see some Perseids in the days leading up to and after the peak as well. 

Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear

Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. 

If you’re feeling extra nerdy, do a scientific meteor count (S&T and IMO)

August 15th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Jupiter –  The Moon is to the right of Jupiter by just 5˚.  Visible starting 10:30pm due East.

August 18th  – CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Mars –  The Moon is just 3˚ above of Mars.  Visible starting midnight on the 18th due East.

August 25th CLOSE ENCOUNTER – Moon, Venus – A very thin crescent Moon will be just 7˚ above bright Venus.  Visible starting 5:20am due East.

 

CONSTELLATIONS

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

After Dinner, Before Bed:

Spring Constellations: Big Dipper, Bootes, Virgo, Corona Borealis, Hercules – Gaze almost vertically as you face the NW, and you’ll easily find the Big Dipper: seven very bright stars that form a spoon shape. Now if you take the handle of the Dipper, follow its curve to the next bright star you see, about 20˚ away, which is Arcturus. “Follow the arc to Arcturus.” That’s the brightest star in Bootes, which looks like a kite. Take that same curve, and follow it about another 20˚ to “speed on to Spica”, the brightest star in Virgo, one of my favorite constellations, since it reminds me of the Dickinson Mermaid.  Now go back to Bootes, and just to the left of Bootes are seven stars that form the northern crown Corona Borealis, which looks more like a small bowl or a “C” in the sky. Continue a little further to the left and you’ll find the keystone asterism which is part of the constellation Hercules. Extra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars.  It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies.  It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila – Look pretty much straight above you, and find the brightest star up there. You’ll notice a parallelogram attached to it. This is the brightest star Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, the harp. Directly above you will be Cygnus the Swan, with its brightest star Deneb. It will look like a large cross, or if you look out a little further, a swan flying above you. Below Cygnus and Lyra is the third constellation of the Summer Triangle, Aquila the Eagle, with its brightest star Altair. The three bright stars in this one can be easily confused for Orion’s belt, given their similar size, however they are not in line as straight, and are part of a bigger diamond shape.  Use a star chart to find small Delphinus and Sagitta in the area as well.

Before Work:

Pegasus, Andromeda – Look directly south and most of the way up the sky and you’ll find the very big and almost perfect square of Pegasus, the winged horse. Now if you look to the top left of the square, you’ll see three pairs of stars creating a neat double curve to the left and up from that corner star. That is Andromeda. If you have a little extra time, find the middle pair of stars, connect them with a line, and move toward the inside of the curve about the same distance as those stars are apart. There you’ll find the Andromeda Galaxy, which will be just a small faint fuzzy with your naked eye. The cool part is that you are looking at billions of stars that are 2.9 million light years away, that spread out about 150,000 light years across.

 

Don’t forget this podcast is found on my Podbean page, Stitcher, and iTunes.  There’s also a video version on my YouTube Channel and I can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @mrwebbpv. The Pequea Valley Planetarium and its events and updates are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @pvplanetarium.

 

 



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