“What’s in a name? That which we call a July Full Moon
By many other names would shine as bright.”
My apologies to William Shakespeare, but I simply couldn’t resist mangling the above famous quote from Romeo and Juliet.
Full Moons have a myriad of names. Here in the United States the colonists adopted many of them from Native Americans, predominantly the eastern Algonquin nation. While these descriptive names have become the primary ones by which we identify each Full Moon, many other names have been ascribed to them.
For example, the July Full Moon is usually called the Full Buck Moon. This name was one brought over by the colonists from Europe. Male deer in both Europe and North and South America shed their antlers yearly, and by July a new set has emerged. Another old-world name for this Full Moon is Hay Moon, signaling when the hay field had been reaped. And finally Thunder Moon has been used for obvious reasons during northern hemisphere summer months.
Continue reading A Minimal Penumbral Lunar Eclipse and Two “Meteorocre” Shooting Star Displays →
I hope the weather gods have provided a few clear nights since my Jupiter observing guide appeared last month. I finally observed Jupiter at a late June star party Skyscrapers members conducted for the Jesse Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville on June 28. The four Galilean moons were easily visible in all the telescopes, as were Jupiter’s striking banded cloud tops. Regrettably the Great Red Spot was not visible that night, and my attempts to observe it since my last column have been thwarted for one reason or another. Fortunately, we have several more months to glimpse this perhaps dwindling storm.
I’m sure some of you couldn’t resist an early look at Saturn, even if you had to wait much later in the evening for this beautiful ringed-planet to rise high enough into the sky to clear summer horizon haze. Perhaps sky conditions permitted you to obtain marginal views despite the planet’s low altitude above the horizon within a couple of hours after sunset. Now that another month has passed, Saturn will have risen much higher into the southeast sky, thereby allowing for more favorable views. As promised at the end of July’s column, here is a brief observing guide to Saturn (our solar system’s most stunning planet.)
Continue reading Splendid Saturn →
Quite a few months have passed since the local observatories have had the opportunity to provide detailed images of some of our planetary companions in the solar system. When weather conditions have allowed, the Moon has been a good substitute. When the Moon has not been available, telescope operators have turned to double stars and faint fuzzies like star clusters, galaxies and nebulae. However, these celestial objects don’t often elicit the wow factor that planetary viewing can do. Add some high thin haze, atmospheric turbulence, a little bit of moisture and light pollution, and it has been a challenge to provide decent views of the heavens. Our observing opportunities have now greatly improved.
While amateur astronomers have been observing Jupiter and Saturn during hours when most people are in REM dreamland, from now through November telescopes throughout Rhode Island will focus on exquisite views of these two gas giant worlds and all their glory. All I can say is, “It’s about time!!” This month’s column will provide a brief observing guide to Jupiter. Next month I will feature Saturn.
Back on June 10 Jupiter reached opposition. That means it rose as the Sun was setting. This date was also the date of Jupiter’s closest approach to the Earth for this year—about 397,850,855 miles. By July 1 this distance will have increased to 403,576,313 miles as the Earth pulls out ahead of Jupiter in our respective orbits. Fortunately, views of the Jovian system do not suffer dramatically from rapidly increasing distance.
Continue reading The Return of Jupiter and Saturn to the Evening Sky →
we approach the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, this year on June
21 at 11:54 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), here in Rhode Island many folks
revel in the extra daylight hours, especially in the evening. Astronomers are
not among those individuals because our skies do not get fully dark until about
10 p.m., and dawn’s early light starts around 4 a.m. That leaves little time to
explore the universe with telescopes and cameras to capture the beauty of the
heavens. Then as the summer months continue, we must contend with high humidity
and pesky mosquitoes.
However, there are a couple of planets we will welcome back to the evening sky over the course of this summer. They are Jupiter and Saturn. These distant worlds reveal much detail in the telescopes at the local observatories.
Continue reading Summer Stargazing →