Night Sky - Astro Bob
by Bob King
Summer’s warm weather makes it easy to spend time under the stars. And this year there’s lots to see. On moonless nights, the Milky Way spreads a magic carpet woven of billions of stars across the heavens. Look up and feel your spine tingle at the sight. Few things in the sky better remind us of our place in the universe.
Long days make for short nights but great opportunities to view the International Space Station, the Summer Triangle, the Perseid meteor shower and a plenitude of planets. Venus shines low in the west at dusk, while Jupiter gleams in the southern sky. Come July and August, watch for Saturn and Mars to follow Jupiter’s lead. This season, Mars will be closer to Earth than at any time in the past 15 years and outshine the brightest stars. You won’t want to miss it. Besides the planets, we’ll see several gorgeous pairings of the Moon and planets called conjunctions and who knows, maybe even some northern lights. Keep your eye to the sky!
Bob King is author of “Night Sky with the Naked Eye” an activity based book aimed at both beginning and amateur astronomers. In it he guides readers to all the wonderful things visible in the night sky without special equipment. It covers satellites, the aurora, the brighter constellations, nighttime clouds and halo phenomena, planets, the moon, meteor showers and much more.
Night Sky – Summer Schedule
MAY 17 – Beautiful Moon-Venus pairing low in the west at dusk.
MAY 20 THRU EARLY JUNE – Watch for the International Space Station during evening twilight. It looks like a bright star moving from west to east across the sky. If you see it suddenly disappear, it’s been eclipsed by Earth’s shadow!
MAY 27 – Moon near the bright planet Jupiter.
MAY 29 – Full Flower Moon
JUNE 3 – Moon paired with Mars in the pre-dawn sky.
JUNE 16 – Moon near Venus in the west at dusk.
JUNE 21 – Summer solstice. Summer begins at 5:07 a.m. Central Time (6:07 a.m. Eastern). Longest day of the year.
JUNE 23 – Moon and Jupiter paired up at nightfall.
JUNE 27 – Full Strawberry Moon passes very close to Saturn tonight. Not to miss! Saturn will also be at opposition or opposite the Sun in the sky and closest to the Earth for the year. It rises at sunset and stays out all night.
JULY 8 - 9 – Venus slides very close to Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. Nice in binoculars.
JULY 15 – Crescent Moon and Venus have a stunning conjunction low in the west at dusk. Must-see!
JULY 24 – Moon directly above Saturn.
JULY 27 – Full Buck Moon. Mars at opposition, brighter than Jupiter and out all night.
JULY 31 – Mars closest to Earth at just 35.7 million miles. Appears in the southeastern sky around 10 p.m. local time as an amazingly bright red “star.”
AUGUST 12 - 13 – Peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower with about 60 meteors visible from a dark sky.
MID AUGUST TO MID SEPTEMBER – Best time to see the Milky Way! Plan a camping trip or a drive to the country when the Moon is out of the sky.
AUGUST 26 – Full Sturgeon Moon.
EARLY TO MID SEPTEMBER – Venus drops lower and lower in the western sky. Through binoculars it looks like a tiny crescent moon.
SEPTEMBER 12 – A thin crescent Moon forms a triangle with departing Venus and Jupiter low in the southwestern sky in early dusk.
SEPTEMBER 22 – Autumnal equinox. Fall begins at 8:54 p.m. Central Time (9:54 p.m. Eastern). Day and night across the Earth are almost exactly equal: 12 hours of daylight, 12 hours of night.