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Skywatch fir the week of June 17, 20224

Skywatch Monday 6-17-2024.mp3


William Parsons was born on June 17th, 1800. Forty years later, he built the Irish Leviathan. At sixteen tons, and with a primary mirror six feet across, the Leviathan would remain the world’s largest telescope for the next seventy years. It was so big that it couldn’t be rotated, so by leaning the instrument east to west, Parsons could observe objects for over a half hour. The Irish Leviathan was so powerful that he could actually see individual stars in distant galaxies like M51, the Whirlpool, roughly 40 million light years away! A lot of the colorful descriptive names of nebulas and galaxies were made up by Parsons – the whirlpool galaxy, the crab nebula, the Saturn nebula. Parson’s son continued his work, but his grandson had no interest in astronomy, and Leviathan was dismantled. But it was rebuilt in 1999.


Tue June 18, 2024 MOON NEARLY FULL

It takes the moon a month to go through its phases - it starts as a new moon, and for a couple of days we can't see it, because it rises and sets with the sun, keeping its face hidden in dark shadow; then as the moon revolves, it becomes a new crescent moon, a thin sliver of moonlight above the setting sun; still, most of the moon is covered in darkness, its shadow falling upon its own face; then it becomes a half-moon in the sky, followed by a lopsided, egg-shaped moon, or gibbous moon. And now the moon is nearly round, its earthside face fully illuminated by the sun. Our lunar neighbor is taking up a position opposite the sun in the sky, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. Two weeks have gone by. In two more weeks the moon will return to new.



Stonehenge, built over forty centuries ago, is one of over a thousand circles of standing stones that can be found throughout the British Isles and Europe. On the first day of summer, the sun rises over an outlying heelstone, as viewed through a central arch of stones. In ancient Egypt, temples were built so that at the summer solstice, the sun’s rays shone through tall columns to sanctuaries within. At the Bighorn medicine wheel in Wyoming, piles of carefully placed stones point toward the summer sunrise. For hundreds of years in New Mexico, a slender ray of sunlight – the sun dagger of the Anasazi – sliced through a petroglyph spiral on the first day of summer. And there is the Sun Temple, built by the Incas at Machu Pichu – but of course Peru is south of the equator, and now it is the winter solstice sun that is framed in this ancient observatory’s window.


Thu June 20, 2024 SUMMER SOLSTICE

Summer begins today, June 20th, at 4:51 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It’s at this precise moment that the sun will shine directly overhead at local noon, not here in Florida obviously, but as seen from a point on the Tropic of Cancer at twenty-three and a half degrees North latitude, about four or five time zones to the west of us. When it’s local noon here, the sun will be as high in the sky as possible for our latitude. Along this part of the Treasure Coast, we’re at 27½ degrees North latitude, so at midday today the sun will be about 4 degrees south of our zenith. This is the summer solstice, as the sun stops its northerly progression, due to the inclined tilt of the earth’s axis as it revolves about the sun; sol/stice – sun stop. It also marks the longest period of daylight and the shortest period of night in the year, at least in Earth’s northern hemisphere.


Fri June 21, 2024 JUNE FULL MOON

The moon is full today. It rises out of the east in the early evening, and can be found in the southern sky at midnight. By dawn the full moon will set in the west. The names for the June full moon are many: according to the Ponca Indians, this is the Hot Weather begins Moon – no argument there. Back in Europe, this was the Rose Moon, so named for the pink color of this full moon, which rides low in the southern sky. The Omaha Indians call this the Moon When Buffalo Bulls Hunt the Cows; to the Tewa Pueblo it’s the Moon When the Leaves are Dark Green. The Winnebago call this the Corn Tasseling Moon, while the Sioux regard it as the Moon of Making Fat. But to the Objiwa Indians, this is the Lovers' Moon, named for En-a-ban'dang the dreamer and A-nou-gons', or Little Star, who first met when the full moon rose.