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Skywatch

Skywatch for the week of August 10 , 2020

Mon Aug 10, 2020        PERSEID METEORS, “TEARS OF ST. LAWRENCE”

The Perseid meteor shower is at peak activity the next few nights. Every year at this time, the earth travels through a portion of its orbit that is littered with bits of ice and dust left in the wake of a passing comet. As we plow into this region, we are treated to a display of shooting stars, as those tiny particles plunge through our atmosphere, burning and lighting up the sky in a brief flash of light – a meteor. The Perseids, so named because they seem to come out of the part of the sky near the constellation Perseus, is a reliable shower viewed by millions of people for many years: in medieval times it was known as the “tears of St. Lawrence,” in honor of the Christian martyr whose feast day is today, August 10th. Grab a reclining lounge chair, protect yourself against mosquitoes, go out late in the evening, face east, and look up toward the top of a clear, dark sky for the best views.

skywatch_8-11-2020-pg1-swtu.mp3

Tue Aug 11, 2020         PERSEIDS AT THEIR PEAK

The Perseid meteor shower is now at peak activity. These “shooting stars” are bits of comet dust that fall to earth at high speeds. When the dust hits the atmosphere, the atmosphere hits back, superheating the dust, which in turn lights up the air around it, leaving a momentary bright streak in the night sky. Most meteor showers are best after midnight, but this year the third quarter moon rises around the midnight hour, and its bright light will keep us from seeing the fainter meteors. So aim for the hours between 10 pm and 1 am. Dress warmly, protect yourself against mosquitoes, find a safe spot that’s away from bright streetlights. Bring a lounge chair that lets you lean all the way back, and of course refreshments such as iced tea and chocolate chip cookies, which are always welcome. Meteor showers are fun, but you can go for several minutes before spotting one. And if it’s cloudy you won’t be able to see them.

skywatch_8-12-2020-pg1-swwe.mp3

Wed Aug 12, 2020        PERSEIDS 3

The Perseid meteor shower is now at peak activity. These “shooting stars” are bits of comet dust that fall to earth at high speeds. When the dust hits the atmosphere, the atmosphere hits back, superheating the dust, which in turn lights up the air around it, leaving a momentary bright streak in the night sky.  This year’s shower should be good, because the old waning moon won’t rise until about 2 in the morning; that’ll leave the sky fairly dark until it appears. So, best times tonight: between 10 pm and 2 am. Protect against mosquitoes, dress warmly, and go someplace dark where there are no streetlights or house lights. Bring a lounge chair so you don’t get a stiff neck looking up. Face toward the northeast, and look well up toward the top of the sky to watch these shooting stars. Don’t go out just for the meteors, check out the summer night sky, including the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars over in the south.

skywatch_8-13-2020-pg1-swth.mp3

Thu Aug 13, 2020         LAST CALL FOR PERSEIDS

The Perseid meteor shower reached peak activity yesterday, but tonight should still be pretty good for viewing it. These “shooting stars” are bits of comet dust that fall to earth at high speeds, superheating the air and lighting it up, leaving a momentary bright streak in the night sky. Most meteor showers are best after midnight, and this one’s no exception. But if that’s too late for you, just go out as late in the evening as you can, dress warmly, protect yourself against mosquitoes, find a safe spot that’s away from bright streetlights. Bring a lounge chair that lets you lean all the way back, and of course refreshments such as iced tea and chocolate chip cookies, are always welcome. Meteor showers are fun, but you can go for several minutes before spotting one. And if it’s cloudy you won’t be able to see them. Face east and look toward the top of the sky for best results.

skywatch_8-14-2020-pg1-swfr.mp3

Fri Aug 14, 2020          HERCULES OVERHEAD

After twilight, when the sky turns dark, look to the top of the sky. Up there is an undistinguished star pattern which traces out a simple letter H. The H stands for Hercules, and while the constellation is not very prominent, the ancient Greek hero it represents was. Many other nearby constellations represent some of Hercules’ adventures. There’s Hyppolyte, the queen of the amazons, who gave Hercules her golden belt, which is portrayed as Virgo the Maiden in the southwest. The carnivorous Stymphalian birds are those three constellations of the summer triangle – Cygnus the Swan, Aquila the Eagle, and Lyra or Vultur Cadens high in the east. In the south is Sagittarius the Archer, a wise centaur who was the young hero’s teacher. And in the northwest, the Big Dipper’s handle becomes the three golden apples of the Hesperides, while the stars of Draco, to the north of the Big Dipper, become the dragon which guards those apples.