Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, August 11,
The next Skylights will be presented Friday, August 25, 2017.
Well, here it is, or there it goes, what we've all been waiting
for, a spectacular total eclipse of
the Sun on August 21, in which the
path of totality runs diagonally across the US from near the
Washington-Oregon border, through southern Illinois, to South
Carolina. The path is very narrow. At best, totality (the Moon
completely covering the Sun) lasts for two minutes and 40
seconds. The event begins as a partial phase around 11:53 AM
CDT, the center of totality taking place at 1:21 PM, CDT. Times
vary with location.
***DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE BRIGHT SUN WITHOUT FILTERING
GLASSES; DO NOT MAKE YOUR OWN. AS LONG AS ANY PORTION OF THE
BRIGHT SUN ITSELF IS PRESENT, EYE DAMAGE CAN OCCUR. ***
As soon as the bright photosphere of the Sun is completely covered and we are
within total shadow of the Moon you can look safely without aid
and see the corona (the hot, thin outer solar atmosphere) and
too many other phenomena to list here. Good luck and clear skies
to all. Clear highways too, as the traffic may get mighty heavy.
All the rest of the United States and Canada will see just the
partial phase, with the Moon only partially covering the Sun. No
other solar phenomena can be seen during the partial phase and
you must still use your eclipse glasses to watch the Moon take a
partial bite out of the Sun.
The Moon goes through perigee, where it is closest to the Earth,
on Friday the 18th. If it were closer to apogee, the Moon would
not cover the Sun and we would witness only an" annular
eclipse," a mere ring of sunlight around the Moon.
After all this it's rather anticlimactic to go back to the night
sky. At least we know that new Moon occurs during the day on
August 21, since it is exactly between us and the Sun. Prior to
the eclipse you can watch the Moon go through its third quarter on Monday the 14th, and then
approach the Sun as a slimming
crescent. It will make a lovely paring with Aldebaran in Taurus the morning of Wednesday
the 16th. Following the eclipse, the waxing crescent will be visible in western evening
twilight the night of Tuesday the 22nd.
The crescent Moon will be to the southwest of Jupiter the night of Thursday the 24th, with
the star Spica to the left of
the planet. Take a look, as Jupiter is well to the west by
nightfall and is slowly disappearing from the evening. Saturn
partly makes up for it by its evening presence low in the south
above Antares in Scorpius. We need only then wait
for Venus to rise an
hour or so before dawn. Miss this one? There's another one
April 8, 2024.
And then there are the perpetual August meteors, the Perseids. The debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle will hit
the Earth at a peak rate the morning of Saturday the 12th.
Usually yielding 60-80 meteors per hour. Perspective effects
make them seem to come out the constellation Perseus. The best
place to look is overhead. Unfortunately, the show will be
partially wiped out by the bright gibbous Moon.
Look practically overhead for two stars northwest of bright Vega that represent they eyes of Draco, the celestial Dragon, who
wraps himself between the Big
and Little Dippers.