The stars of summer are on the way

  • By Mike Lynch
  • Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:44am
  • Life

From a stargazer’s perspective, June and July are lacking. They have the shortest nights of the year, and you have to wait until late at night to take in the starry show. In fact, good stargazing can’t really begin until after 10 p.m., and the show is pretty much over by 4:30 a.m. when morning twilight begins. Get your afternoon nap so you can enjoy nature’s late, late summer star show.

The transition in the night sky over Everett is just about complete. The stars and constellations of winter are pretty much gone from our skies, all setting well before the sun. Among the few bright winter stars left are Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins, and toward the end of evening twilight, between 9:30 and 10 p.m., you can see them side by side in the low northwestern sky. The brightest “star” in the evening sky is actually the planet Jupiter just to the left of and much brighter than Castor and Pollux. Don’t wait too long after evening twilight ends to direct your telescope toward Jupiter and up to four of its bigger moons because the big guy of the solar system sets shortly after 10 p.m.

There are two other planets for your perusal in the evening sky this month, Mars and Saturn. Mars is the brightest star-like object in the fairly low south-southwestern sky at the start of evening, and you can easily see its reddish-orange hue with the naked eye. Even though Mars is still fairly close to the Earth at a little over 75 million miles away, it’s tough to see many surface features on Mars even if you have a larger telescope. The first quarter moon will be hanging around Mars in the southern sky next weekend.

Saturn is not too far away from Mars in low south-southeast heavens and is the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky. Despite being over 825 million miles away it’s an absolute delight to ponder with even a small telescope.

Instructions for sky map

To use this map, cut it out and attach it to a stiff backing. Hold it over your head and line up the compass points on the map’s horizon to the actual direction you’re facing. East and West on this map are not backwards. This is not a misprint. I guarantee that when you hold this map over your head, east and west will be in their proper positions. Also use a small flashlight and attach a red piece of cloth or red construction paper over the lens of the flashlight. You won’t lose your night vision when you look at this map in red light.

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