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Skywatch for the week of April 29, 2024

Skywatch Monday 4-29-2024.mp3

Mon Apr 29, 2024 SUN IN ARIES

As the earth revolves, the sun slowly drifts against the background of stars. The sun has now entered the constellation Aries, the Ram, which places it directly between us and the stars which make up Aries. So you can’t see Aries now, because the bright sun blocks our view of this part of space. If today’s your birthday, you may have been told that you’re a Taurus, meaning the sun was in Taurus when you were born. But the sun isn’t in Taurus, it’s in Aries, and will be for the next several weeks. When astrology was in its heyday thousands of years ago, the sun would have been in Aries, but because of a slow wobble in the earth’s rotational axis, all the zodiacal signs have been offset by one constellation, turning bulls into sheep, sheep into fish, and so on.


Skywatch Tuesday 4-30-2024.mp3


On April 26, 1920, a debate took place between two astronomers - Heber (Heeber) Curtis and Harlow Shapley – about galaxies. Shapley was right when he said that our Milky Way galaxy was bigger than people thought, and that we were not at its center, but a little over halfway out. Curtis was right when he said that there were many other galaxies in our Universe – hundreds of billions, it turns out. Science is at its best when healthy debate is practiced, and if you’re interested in this kind of healthy dialogue about telescopes and astronomy, you should come to Tuesday’s meeting – that’s tonight - of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society, which will be held at 7:30 pm at the Science Center on Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus.


Skywatch Wednesday 5-1-2024.mp3


Divide the year up into four parts or quarters. Each quarter is marked by the beginning of a new season. Now divide those seasons in half and you get cross-quarter days, the midpoints of each season. We’re now at the cross-quarter day for Spring, called Beltane in the old Celtic calendar, when wooden poles were decorated with flowers and ribbons. Then folks would take those ribbons and dance clockwise, wrapping them around the maypole, mimicking the sun’s motion across the sky through the day. Tonight the stars of the constellation Virgo, the springtime maiden, appear in the southeast after sunset, reminding everyone that the green growing season of crops is waxing toward the summer harvest.


Skywatch Thursday 5-2-2024.mp3


The Big Dipper can guide you to other stars. If you draw a line through the two stars in the front of the Big Dipper's bowl and extend that line to the north, it will point to Polaris, the North Star. Polaris is not very bright, but it is in the north, and it’s also at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, which is also hard to see since most its stars are even dimmer than Polaris. So go back to the Big Dipper’s pointer stars and run a line in the other direction, and you’ll discover a group of stars that looks like a backwards question mark high up in the southern sky - that’s Leo the Lion. Finally, draw a curved line through the stars in the Big Dipper’s handle, and then follow that curved line out, and low in the east are the stars Arcturus and Spica.


Skywatch Friday 5-3-2024.mp3

Fri May 3, 2024 HOWLING COYOTE

An old Navajo story tells how the stars came to be. Altse’ Hastiin, the first man, asked all the animals to gather up the bright shining stones along the river. They carried those stones up into the sky where they became stars. They put them in patterns which would show the people which creatures had set those stars in place. Now the small animals could not carry many stars and Great Spirit asked Coyote to take a bag of stones to help them complete their pictures. But Coyote soon grew tired, and he flung the stones across the sky, scattering them, and making a jumble of the pictures. Then Coyote was sorry, because he had forgotten to put his own picture up in the heavens. And that, say the Navajo, is why the Coyote howls at night.