Sky's Up July-September 2017 - Page 4

what’s up in the sky Late July - Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower With a radiant point in the Aquarius Constellation, the Delta Aquarids begin their annual amble across the sky in mid- July, bloom in late-July and fade out in the third week of August. They can be seen almost everywhere but favor observers in the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics region of the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the Delta Aquarids’ loosely-defined peak will occur around July 29th. During the peak, the shower can produce 15-20 meteors per hour. Like other meteor showers, the Delta Aquarids are the result of Earth’s passage through debris left behind by a comet. However, the exact source comet for this shower has been a matter of debate. The most likely candidate is Comet 96P/Machholz, which was not discovered until 1986. Aug. 12-13 - Perseid Meteor Shower Peak Although the waning gibbous moon will present some significant interference, the always-anticipated Perseid meteor shower should still produce some real stunners when it peaks around Aug. 12th. Caused by the Earth’s passage through debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids have been known to produce 80- 100 meteors per hour during their peak, and many of these display impressive persistent trains. The shower does favor Northern Hemisphere viewers and occurs in the perfect season for a long night of languishing under the stars. The best time to view will be in the predawn hours well after the moon has set. Because the Moon will already be presenting a significant light battle, observers will want to take extra care this year in choosing where to view because a dark sky will be vital. Aug. 21 - Total Solar Eclipse The last total solar eclipse to touch any part of the contiguous U.S. happened on February 26, 1979, and cut a narrow path across five states in the country’s northwest corner. Now, 38 years later, the contiguous U.S. will once again witness a total solar eclipse but this time the path of totality will stretch from coast to coast and cross through 14 states! The eclipse begins in the Pacific Ocean and wraps up in the Atlantic Ocean, and the U.S. is the 4 on the horizon Awakening others to the marvels of the universe is the most rewarding part of astronomy outreach, and some of the best places to do that are star parties and astronomy expositions. The following is a list of upcoming events that promote amateur astronomy. only place where the narrow path of totality will actually cross over land. More information on where and when you can see this epic event is spread throughout this issue of Sky’s Up! Sept. 5 - Nepture at Opposition The fact that Neptune was first found by mathematical prediction rather than actual observation reveals how elusive our planetary sibling can be. But in the weeks leading up to Sept. 5th, amateur astronomers will be getting their telescopes ready for the planet’s move into a prime viewing position. On Sept. 5th, the blue-hued COURTESY OF Babak Tafreshi, TWAN (The World at Night) Neptune will reach A meteor appears next to the Milky Way during the Perseid Meteor opposition, which Shower above ancient Native American petroglyph in the Owens Valley of means it will sit the Sierras in Bishop, Calif., on Aug. 11, 2016. directly opposite planet, Uranus, will be at opposition, which of the Sun when viewed from our planet. means it will essentially be at a position Around the same time, it also will be directly opposite of the Sun when viewed making its closest passage to Earth. These from Earth. At the same time, it will also circumstances translate to an excellent be at its closest approach to Earth. For observing opportunity. Located in the sky watchers, the combination of these Aquarius constellation, Neptune will be factors means the planet will be in a prime highest in the sky at midnight local time and will have an apparent visual magnitude viewing position almost all night, peaking at midnight local time. Even though of 7.8. Although it is the fourth largest planet in our solar system, Neptune is not a Uranus, which will be located in the Pisces constellation, will appear at its brightest naked eye object. To see it as more than a and largest in the night sky during this brilliant point of light, you will need to use event, naked eye observations will reveal at least a moderate-size telescope, which will hopefully render the planet as a steady little more than a star-like point. To really blue disk. see this remote planet manifest as a pale aqua disk, you will need a moderate-sized Oct. 19 - Uranus at Opposition telescope, and a larger scope may reveal On Oct. 19, our solar system’s third largest some of the planet’s many moons. Sky ’ s Up Finalize your eclipse plans!! July 18-22 — Table Mountain Star Party The annual Table Mountain Star Party will run from July 18 through July 22 at Eden Valley Ranch near Oroville, Wash. In addition to offering speakers and stargazing sessions under a dark sky, this event will include an observers challenge program, telescope making, a swap meet, a young astronomer program, door prize drawings and more. For more information, click here. COURTESY OF Fred Espenak, July 20-23 — Starfest Canada’s largest annual amateur astronomy conference and star party will kick off on July 20 at River Place Park in Ayton, Ontario. The theme for this year’s event, which is hosted by the North York Astronomical Association, is “Fire and Ice.” The keynote speaker will be renowned eclipse expert Fred Espenak, who will share his vast knowledge of the upcoming total solar eclipse. There will be a wide variety of presentations on topics ranging from NASA missions to astrophotography, a kidsfest with hands- on activities, day and night observing sessions, workshops on constructing solar filters, a swap table, door prizes, vendors and much more. For additional information, click here. July 23-28 — Nebraska Star Party Stunning dark skies await attendees of the annual Nebraska Star