Skywatch for the week of June 1 , 2020
Tue June 2, 2020 NAME THAT PLANET Let’s play a game I call, “name that planet.” I’ll give you the names of some or all of the moons that orbit a particular planet, and you have to figure out which planet it is. For example, if I said, “luna” or “moon,” you would respond with “earth.” All right, let’s start. “Phobos” and “Deimos,” which mean “fear” and “panic?” These are the two sons, and also, the two moons, of Mars. Now try “Nix,” “Styx,” “Hydra,” “Kerberos,” and “Charon.” These are the five moons of Pluto. How about, “Juliet,” “Ariel,” “Umbriel,” “Titania,” “Puck,” and “Miranda?” Those are some of the moons of Uranus. “Adrastea,” “Metis,” “Amalthea,” “Callisto,” “Ganymede,” “Europa,” and “Io?” Those belong to Jupiter. Now try, “Rhea,” “Mimas,” “Enceladus,” “Atlas,” “Calypso,” “Dione,” “Epimetheus,” “Pandora,” “Prometheus,” “Janus,” and “Titan?” Those moons orbit Saturn. That leaves us with just Mercury and Venus, but they don’t have any moons!
Wed June 3, 2020 IROQUOIS-NORSE STAR PATTERNS In an old Iroquois story, the earth was created when all the animals came together in council to make a dry place where Ataensic, the sky woman, could live. Most all people long ago had creation stories, with similarities and differences. The Norse said that the earth was fashioned from the great body of the giant Ymir. And all around the world, constellations were invented that filled the heavens at night. In ancient Greece the Big Dipper, which is now high in the north after sunset, was part of the great bear Ursa Major. Many native American people saw a bear here as well. But to the Vikings, the Big Dipper was called Odin’s Wagon. This wagon or chariot must have been a pretty good ride, because it was passed down to Odin’s son Thor; and Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, also called the Little Dipper, was driven by Freya, Thor’s wife and the Norse goddess of love. And Thor himself may be represented by the constellation Orion, low on the west horizon at sunset this evening.
Thu June 4, 2020 JOHN COUCH ADAMS John Couch Adams was born 201 years ago, on June 5th in 1819. Adams was first to predict the location of Neptune. Astronomers had noticed that Uranus, thought at the time to be the outermost planet, did not follow its predicted path. The gravity of some massive object farther out was pulling on it, altering its orbit. In 1845, Adams deduced the location of the hidden gravity source, and in 1846, Neptune was discovered telescopically by J.G. Galle; but Galle had never heard of Adams! Galle used the predictions of the French mathematician Jean Leverrier instead, who had also arrived at a solution to the orbit problem a year after Adams. But Adams had sent his calculations to his supervisor, the Astronomer Royal, George Airy, who didn’t do anything with the information because Adams hadn’t shown all his work and didn’t follow through with Airy’s request for more information and never made an appointment to talk to him about it – definitely a failure to communicate.
Fri June 5, 2020 JUNE FULL MOON The moon is full and in between the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus the Snake Bearer; no, I’m not making this up. Ophiuchus is an ancient star pattern which honors the mythical doctor Asclepius, who it is said used snakes to heal the sick. Those folks who enter the medical profession still swear “by Asclepius” when they take the Hippocratic Oath. According to the Ponca Indians, June’s full moon is the Hot Weather begins Moon – no argument there. Back in Europe, this was the Rose Moon, so named for the pink color of this full moon, which rides low in the southern sky. The Omaha Indians call this the Moon When Buffalo Bulls Hunt the Cows; to the Tewa Pueblo it’s the Moon When the Leaves are Dark Green. The Winnebago call this the Corn Tasseling Moon, while the Sioux regard it as the Moon of Making Fat. But to the Objiwa Indians, this is the Lovers' Moon, named for En-a-ban'dang the dreamer and A-nou-gons', or Little Star, who first met when the full moon rose.