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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

See the Summer Triangle

Posted on June 29 2014 at 3:16:33 0 comments

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

July has come early this year, due to the number of revolutions the Earth has made since this stargazer’s birth, but it starts with quite a spectacular show.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get dark till ten o’clock but as soon as it does, look to the southwest and there, fairly low in the sky, is a brilliant array of planets and things.

First, towards the glow of sunset is a crescent Moon, just seven days old on the 5th of July but bright enough to dominate the sky.

To the left of that is Mars, getting fainter now because we are leaving it behind as we trundle round the Sun. It is still distinctly orange, though, and quite unmistakable.

Just to its left is the star that Mars has been quietly creeping up on: Spica. On the 13th it will catch it, shout “Boo!” and then slide away to the left. It will end the month about halfway between Spica and Saturn.

High above is the star Arcturus, the brightest star in this part of the sky and with a slightly orange hue to match Mars. Back down on the line of the ecliptic, Saturn is visible further to the left, not looking so distinct now due to its low altitude and having passed opposition.

The Moon steps across the sky day by day, passing close by Mars on the 5th and Saturn on the 7th. Full Moon is on the 12th of July, which means it’ll be out of the way for the Delta Aquarids meteor shower at the end of the month.

High overhead is Vega, a bright, bluish star at the top of the little parallelogram of stars forming Lyra. To the left of this is a cross of stars, the brightest being Deneb at the top. Actually Deneb forms the tail of Cygnus, the swan, flying along the Milky Way, downwards below Lyra.

Vega and Deneb form the base of an upside down triangle, with another bright star, Altair, below them at the apex. This marks the tail of Aquila the Eagle and these three easily-seen stars together form what is known as the Summer Triangle.

Actually, they become more observable to most of us as autumn creeps in, but we don’t want to think about that season just yet, do we? No!

This is time for sitting out in the evenings, with friends, perhaps with a little something to keep you cool, and playing the game of satellite spotting. A comfy seat is a must and if it enables you to rest your head, so much the better.

Find the darkest bit of sky and watch. Before long you will see a faint, star-like object wandering across the sky at about the speed of an aircraft but silently and with no flashing lights.

As ever, I recommend looking for the International Space Station, travelling from the southwest to southeast.

On July the 23rd, a Russian Soyuz is due to launch. This is Progress 56 carrying supplies to the ISS, so keep your eyes on the heavens above.


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