Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Skywatch for the week of May 27, 2024

Skywatch Monday 5-27-2024.mp3

Mon May 27, 2024 MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is being observed today. 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 5-28-2024.mp3


On May 28, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, became the first men to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. This great peak is almost five and a half miles up. And yet that height is a mere trifle to an even larger mountain found on Mars. Mount Olympus is a giant dead volcano over fifteen miles high, about three times taller than Mount Everest! If you’re an explorer like Hillary and Norgay, but aren’t necessarily interested in climbing mountains, then perhaps you should consider exploring the stars from wherever you are. Tonight the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will meet at the Science Center on Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus at 7:30 pm. Come on out and explore the heavens!


Skywatch Wednesday 5-29-2024.mp3


There was a solar eclipse on May 28th, back in the year 585 B.C. which was noteworthy in that its occurrence ended a war! As the historian Herodotus tells us: “Just as the battle was growing warm, day was suddenly changed into night. When the Lydians and the Medes observed the change, they ceased their fighting and were anxious to conclude peace.” And with that, a six-year war came to an end! Now this eclipse had been predicted by Thales of Miletus, the father of Greek astronomy. Thales was also knowledgeable on the subject of meteorology. When some folks told him that science would never make him rich, he went and figured out that upcoming fair weather would bring a good harvest of olives. So he bought up all the olive presses, and made a fortune in the olive oil market!


Skywatch Thursday 5-30-2024.mp3


For the past few weeks I’ve been going outside every clear evening to look for a nova that is scheduled to appear sometime between now and September. So far, nothing. A nova is a very hot, dying white dwarf star that is pulling gas off of a nearby companion star. That gas spirals around the white dwarf, and when there’s a lot of it, the gas touches down on the surface of the white dwarf and ignites, creating a flare-up in the star. The white dwarf brightens considerably for a few days, then dims down again – until more gas has piled up around it and the cycle repeats itself. This can go on for years and years. The last time this star, called T Coronae Borealis, did this, was back in 1946. When it does flare up again, it will appear as a fairly bright star well to the south of the Big Dipper’s handle. Stay tuned!


Skywatch Friday 5-31-2024.mp3

Fri May 31, 2024 GREAT GALAXY!

In the evening in the summer, or in the fall, or the winter, when the sky is clear and dark, the Milky Way can be seen as a faint band of cloudy light that stretches across the heavens. But in the springtime evening, the Milky Way hugs the horizon in all directions, completely encircling it, and it can be lost in the glow of streetlights. The Milky Way is our home galaxy, and we are inside it. But which is bigger – the Milky Way galaxy or our solar system? Solar systems are billions of miles in diameter, but the disc of our Milky Way is roughly 600 thousand trillion miles across – much bigger, and what’s more, it contains hundreds of billions of solar systems. All of the stars you see up there are part of our Milky Way – great galaxy!