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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Looking Up: Enjoy the summer night sky

  • The height of summer brings welcome times under the stars, though of course you have to stay up a little longer to see them- if you are prone to turning in no later than 10 p.m. The lengthy days of summer also mean one star dominates our sky, the Sun!
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  • The height of summer brings welcome times under the stars, though of course you have to stay up a little longer to see them- if you are prone to turning in no later than 10 p.m. The lengthy days of summer also mean one star dominates our sky, the Sun!
         First quarter Moon is on July 5th; it becomes full phase on Saturday July 12. This is a wonderful time to see the Full Moon as unlike any other time of year, our natural satellite lies at the lowest point in its path through the southern sky. Just as the Sun is low in the south at noon in January, so is the Moon low in the south at midnight in July, and occupies the same region of sky- the constellation Sagittarius.
            Those who like to camp may know the experience of bringing your pillow underneath the stars. Depending on how much you “rough it,” you can let the crickets, peep toads, owls, coyotes, skunks, bears and alleged cougars be your lullaby as you doze off, the starlit vault of heaven above you. This is a great opportunity for many, especially those who live in town or the city, to get out under the stars and point out the constellations and planets to your family, and count the meteors (whimsically called “shooting stars”). Get a basic star chart and learn the constellations so you will be ready. How many of us recall as a child, being pointed out the Big Dipper? It remains with you all your life and no matter where in the world you are (except way below the equator), the Big Dipper is there as a “faithful friend.” So too can be any of the 88 constellations and their interesting sights within them, for those who wish to go a bit deeper.
            Cygnus the Swan is a favorite in the summer sky. Otherwise known as the Northern Cross for its obvious outline, the “Cross” appears on its side, with the top to the left, in the summer evening (about 10 p.m.). You need to face east and look half way up. This star on the left is also the brightest  star in Cygnus, Deneb, magnitude +1.3, bluish-white in color.
              On the opposite end of the “Cross” is the star Albireo. This is a stunning binary, or “double” star. Good binoculars, of held very steady, may reveal the two components; a small telescope will show them easily, including the contrasting colors. Close to Deneb (just above it when you face east to see Cygnus) is another striking binary star visible with binoculars, known as “Omicron-2”.
    Page 2 of 2 -      Next week, after the Moon leaves the evening sky, if there is no haze, note the billowing, smoke-like Milky Way Band as it courses through Cygnus. It extends toward the south, and beginning in Cygnus the Band splits into two! This is not an actual division. The effect is caused by vast dark nebulae, cosmic dust clouds that swirl through our galaxy. The nebulae hide the light of much of the swarm of distant stars in the Milky Way Band.
            While facing east, notice the brilliant star Vega very high up above Cygnus, and to the lower right of Cygnus, the bright star Altair. Deneb, Vega and Altair make up what is nicknamed the “Summer Triangle,” not an official constellation but another way to point out the stars.  
             Looking south as twlight deepens, look for the bright yellow-white planet Saturn to the left, and the bright orange-red planet Mars to the right; just to the left of Mars is a bright white star, Spica. Look straight up from Spica to find the brilliant orange star Arcturus.
    Send your notes to news@neagle.com. I love hearing from readers!
    Keep looking up!

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