Archive for the ‘Night Sky’ Category

On The Cusp Of Summer   Leave a comment

Summer_Solstice_Midnight_2017

The Earth captured at summer solstice, 2017 – Credit: Japan Meteorological Agency’s Himawari-8 satellite

Ah, summer. Leisurely days spent sipping ice tea by the pool or barbecue. Or maybe a vacation on a beach or lake? Or a trip overseas? There’s just something about this favorite season of everyone’s that brings smiles and thoughts of relaxing the sultry days away, maybe indulging too much ice cream and gazing at fireworks.

Summer almost seems like a reward for shivering in winter, raking all those autumn leaves and pulling the enthusiastically growing spring weeds from all those places they shouldn’t be growing. It’s the glamour girl of the seasons, letting down its long, luxurious hair to blow in the west wind, shining brightly in the glittering sun.

But really, summer is just a spot on the Earth’s orbit that means that one of its poles has reached its maximum tilt towards the sun, and from an observer’s viewpoint, the sun has reached its highest point in the sky. And during the northern hemisphere’s summer, anyone south of the equator is entering winter. Or, if you’re at the equator, there’s hardly any shift in time or seasons.

The summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere anytime between June 20-22. It’s a quirk of the calendar, not of the Earth. If one also notices the time of sunrise and sunset, you’ll see that sunrise times seem stuck in place for a few days, but the sunset times grow later. The sun in the sky appears to be at the same place for a short while. That’s known as an analemma. Click on the link for a previous blog post that nicely explains what it is.

Skygazers are rewarded with lots of wonderful constellations during the summer. Facing south, both Scorpius and Sagittarius dominate the sky. There’s the Perseid meteor showers from August 8-13. The Summer Triangle too – consisting of three brilliant stars: Deneb in Cygnus, Altair in Aquila and Vega in Lyra. The Milky Way shines brightly above around midnight, and Aquila and Cygnus are poised within it.

While haze might make some nights a bit challenging for observing the sky, viewers should take every opportunity to turn off the porch light and look up. Those stars won’t be hanging around forever. They’re busy marching on to the next season, which is autumn, and in the northern hemisphere it occurs on September 23. So put down your smartphone, turn off the TV and get outside!

 

 

 

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