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Skywatch for the week of May 30,2021

Skywatch Monday 5-30-2022.mp3

Mon May 30, 2022 MEMORIAL DAY

Today is Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day. It commemorates the end of the American Civil War. In 1884, Oliver Wendell Holmes said that both “…private and general stand side by side. Unmarshalled save by their own deeds, the army of the dead sweep before us, "wearing their wounds like stars." Another eulogy reminds us that those who fought for our country are as the soft stars that shine at night. Legend says that George Washington made the first sketch of a starry flag. But Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, first urged the use of stars in our flag’s design. We invoke the stars as our beacons in the dark. They shine on us all, the astronomer, the poet, those who labor, and those who fight to keep us safe, both in the sunlit day and in the starlit night.

Skywatch Tuesday 5-31-2022.mp3


Before the space age began in the late 1950’s, we could only observe the planets through telescopes. But now we have sent spacecraft past planets, we have placed spacecraft in orbit about planets, we have even landed on planets – and moons – and asteroids – and comets! Now we can show planetarium audiences actual images of these neighbor worlds of ours. From this point on, we will simply be retracing our steps - until we travel out beyond our solar system to the stars. If this kind of talk appeals to you, why not come to tonight’s meeting of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society, which will be held at the Hallstrom Planetarium at 7:30 pm, on Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus. There you can hear more about outer space and astronomy!

Skywatch Wednesday 6-1-2022.mp3


An old Norse story said that the earth was fashioned from the great body of the giant Ymir. Norse star patterns were also different from those we know today. The Big Dipper, now upside down in the north after sunset, is part of the great bear Ursa Major. But to the Norse, 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, the Norse goddess of love. Thor himself may be represented by the constellation Orion, low on the west horizon at sunset this evening, while the brilliant star Sirius, below and to the east of Orion, was called Loki’s flaming torch, and whenever it flashed and twinkled, the Norse said that Thor’s brother was working great mischief in the halls of Asgard.

Skywatch Thursday 6-2-2022.mp3


To the north of the crescent moon this evening are two stars that appear in the west after it first gets dark - they are the heads of the Gemini twins, Castor on the right, and Pollux on the left. The Tewa Pueblo Indians saw these two stars as the Place of Decision, where they had to choose whether to follow their leader, Long Sash, up into the Sky Country, or remain on earth below. Ultimately, they did go up along the great sky road, the Milky Way. But their leader could not stay with them, as his days had come to an end; and now Long Sash, what we call the constellation Orion, has set, leaving his people to carry on the journey. But if you look to the east of Gemini, you may find the headdress of Long Sash, the Praesepe star cluster, but only when skies are dark and clear.

Skywatch Friday 6-3-2022.mp3


Can you identify the thirty-first largest constellation? It is bordered on the north by the constellation Lynx the Bobcat, and on the south by Hydra, on the west by the Gemini, and on the east by Leo the Lion. There are no bright stars here, and it is one of the darkest regions in the night sky. But there is a beautiful open star cluster within its borders, known as the Praesepe or Beehive cluster, and some of its stars have been found to have planets orbiting them. In mythology it was a crustacean that was sent by the goddess Hera to attack the hero Hercules. It was accidentally crushed by Hercules during the fight, but Hera restored it to life in the heavens as a constellation. Tonight the waxing crescent moon lies within its borders. Can you name this star figure, the third constellation of the Zodiac? The answer is Cancer the Crab, high in the south after sunset.