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  • Writer's pictureShawna Rundstrom

Connecting Through Nature - Look at the Night Skies

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

By Allie Shoulders

Isaiah 40:26, The Message

"So-who is like me?

Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy.

Look at the night skies:

Who do you think made all this?

Who marches this army of stars out each night,

counts them off, calls each by name

-so magnificent!  so powerful!-

and never overlooks a single one?

We look forward to the day we can be meet and look into a telescope eyepiece together, but until then, do not miss some amazing reminders of God's majesty and creativity by viewing these suggestions from the Telescope Guys (Mario Zelaya, Pat Caskey and Bob Shoulders) of the army of stars in the next month.  

1. Summer triangle-


Last month, we used the "Big Dipper" to help find the North Star and the red giant Arcturus.  This month, we can see the "summer triangle" of the bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair rising in the East at dusk.  They will be the first stars visible in the eastern sky as it grows dark.  The summer triangle rising at dusk happens every year at the beginning of summer.  As the year goes on, the triangle will appear higher and higher in the evening sky, until it disappears into the sunset as winter approaches.  

These stars are each in three different constellations.  Vega is in the constellation Lyra (the Harp), Altair in in Aquila (the eagle), and Deneb is in Cygnus (the swan).  Cygnus is sometimes called the northern cross.  Of the three stars, Vega appears brightest.  In fact, it is the fifth brightest star in our night sky.  It's relative brightness is partly due its size (it's twice the mass of the sun) and it's distance of 25 light years, which is pretty close as stars go.  Deneb, on the other hand, is not in our stellar neighborhood.  It is estimated to be roughly 2000 light years away, the farthest of any of the bright stars in the sky.  So the light we look at from Deneb tonight may have left the star when Jesus was talking to his Disciples.  It owes its brightness in our sky to its astonishing size and brightness.  It is thought to be 200,000 times brighter than the sun, and if it were where the sun is, the Earth would be inside of it.  Also, while most giant stars are relatively cool, and therefore red in color like Arcturus, Deneb is a hot blue-white giant.  Deneb is at the tail of the swan (or the top of the cross).  Another notable star (or pair of stars) named Alberio is at the other end of Cygnus.  It is a famous double star, which means that it is actually two stars that are so close together they look like a single star to our eyes.  Through a telescope, however, they are a beautiful pair: one blue, the other golden.

2.  Something fun to see before the fireworks:  July 4th Partial Penumbral Lunar Eclipse 

When the full moon comes up on the evening of July 4th, you may notice that it looks a little bit different.  That's because it will be in the middle of a partial penumbral lunar eclipse.  "Lunar" because it's happening on the Moon,  "Partial" because it only happens on part of the moon (I think), and "penumbral" because the Earth will only be blocking part of the sun, so the part of the moon that's eclipsed won't be completely dark, just darker than the rest of the Moon.

3. Jupiter and Saturn both at opposition

When a planet is at opposition, the Earth is directly between it and the Sun,  This means that the planet passes directly overhead at "true" midnight (not daylight savings time), and also that the planet is the closest it will be for the year.  This year, Saturn and Jupiter are also in conjunction, which means they are close together in the sky.

July 14 - Jupiter at Opposition: The giant gas planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and fully illuminated by the Sun. Jupiter will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter, the Great Red Spot, and its four Galilean moons.

Visible worldwide.

July 20 - Saturn at Opposition: The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and fully illuminated by the Sun. Saturn will be brighter than any other time of the year and visible all night long. This will be the best time to view and photograph the ringed planet and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see the rings and several of its brightest moons.

Visible worldwide.

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