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Skywatch for the week of August 1, 2022

Skywatch Monday 8-1-2022.mp3


Today is the third cross-quarter day of the year: this time it’s Lammas, which divides the summer season into two halves. The old name for today was Lughnasadh, commemorating the marriage of the Celtic sun god Lugh to Danu the earth goddess, assuring that the crops would grow. Their children became the Tuatha de Danaan, the fairy folk of Ireland. In Christian reckoning, this is the “Loaf Mass,” or “Lammas.” The loaves of bread baked at this time were consecrated as the first harvest food. This was a busy time, as there was a lot of farming to be done; the days were much longer than the nights, which meant the farmwork just kept going until everyone was exhausted. Lammas was a small break in this work, work, work period – a chance for everyone to bake some bread and give thanks for the respite.

Skywatch Tuesday 8-2-2022.mp3

Tue Aug 2, 2022 MARIA MITCHELL

Maria Mitchell, was born on August 1st, 1818. As a young girl she helped her father in his observatory on Nantucket Island. In 1847 she set up a telescope on her parent’s housetop and discovered a comet. The next year she became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also served as professor of astronomy at Vassar College from 1865 until a year before her death in 1889. She contributed to the American Nautical Almanac, observed sunspots and solar eclipses, plus the planets and the moon. A crater on the moon is named for her. Maria Mitchell said, “We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.” But she also asked of her students, "Did you learn that from a book or did you observe it yourself?"

Skywatch Wednesday 8-3-2022.mp3


can you identify the second largest constellation? It is bordered on the north by Boötes the Shepherd and Coma Berenices; on the south by Hydra and Corvus the Crow; on the west by Leo the Lion and Crater the Cup; and on the east by Libra the Scales and Serpens Caput. Planets have been discovered orbiting many of its stars, and a huge cluster of galaxies lies within its borders. In mythology this star figure is associated with the planting and harvesting seasons, and often portrayed as Persephone, daughter of the earth goddess Demeter. Sometimes this constellation represents Astraea, Winged Justice, who holds the scales of law, the constellation Libra. Tonight the waxing crescent moon can be found near its brightest star Spica. Can you name this constellation, the sixth sign of the zodiac? The answer is Virgo the Maiden.

Skywatch Thursday 8-4-2022.mp3


Many of our modern constellations were also recognized by ancient Egyptians; there were also distinct star patterns which were theirs alone. The Big Dipper, part of the larger constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, was seen by the Egyptians as the leg of a great bull, a dismembered piece of the god Set. The star Polaris in the Little Dipper represented the coffin of Osiris, while the rest of the Little Dipper was sometimes a scorpion, or sometimes a jackal, the “dark and loathsome creature of Set.” Between the dippers is the long, straggling constellation of Draco the Dragon, which hearkens back to Babylonia, where he was the frightful Tiamat of Chaldea, whose body was divided to make heaven and earth. But to the pharaohs of Egypt these stars also represented Taweret the Hippopotamus and Sobek the Alligator.

Skywatch Friday 8-5-2022.mp3


Sixty years ago today, the first quasar was discovered. It has the unromantic designation, 3C273, the 273rd object in the third Cambridge catalog of radio sources. Quasi-stellar radio sources, or quasars, are so faint they can only be seen by powerful telescopes. They’re dim because they’re really far away! 3C273 actually puts out more energy than the combined light of the hundreds of billions of stars of our entire Milky Way, and this from an object only the size of our solar system! We think quasars are the hearts of galaxies that formed when the universe was young; these powerful light sources no longer exist. 3C273 is in our southwestern sky this evening, not too far from the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo,(but several billion light years farther out of course.)