Celestial events in the skies for the week of June 27-July 3, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Now is the time to learn your way around the beautiful starry realm as the warm weather and extended daylight draws many of us outside. The star patterns are a tale of mankind’s imagination centuries ago, many of the characters drawn from mythological legends about people and creatures. It’s fun to learn about Hercules, the celestial Bears, Cygnus the flying swan and many more of the constellations. Any library has books for free, and bookstores have the two monthly magazines with star charts, Astronomy or Sky & Telescope. And you can download free star maps at many sites, including Starmaps.com.
Tuesday, June 27
The crescent Moon hangs on the western horizon in the Summer twilight, a beautiful sliver of light over the next few days as it moves westward higher in our evening sky. This always creates great photo opportunities as the crescent Moon is photographed low to the horizon with trees and buildings providing excellent visual framing.
Wednesday, June 28
Campers will no doubt gaze up at the stars, and the later the hour the higher the Milky Way will be. Even a pair of binoculars will open the eyes to the tremendous number of stars beyond the reach of human vision. And, maybe you’ll see a meteor streak across the sky!
Thursday, June 29
On this 1971 date in space history, three cosmonauts were asphyxiated during reentry of their Soyuz 11 spacecraft. The cosmonauts spent 28 days on the world’s first space station, Salyut 1, and the tragedy rocked the Soviet public who watched almost daily televised reports from the spacemen.
Friday, June 30
International Asteroid Day. Celebrated now because on this 1908 date in astronomy history, a comet or meteor exploded over Siberia, leveling hundreds of acres of forest in the area called Tunguska. Shockwaves were felt around the world, and dust thrown up created red sunset for months. So remote is the area, it took 20 years for the first successful expedition to bring back photos of the devastation.
Saturday, July 1
On this 1917 date in astronomy history, the 100-inch mirror for the Hooker Telescope on Mt. Wilson, California was delivered. For three decades, it was the most important optical instrument pointed to the stars, making many discoveries fundamental to our understanding of the Universe 100 years later.
Sunday, July 2
Look south at 11 pm and see red Antares in Scorpius, and to its left is yellowish “star” Saturn. Any small telescope will show the rings. And don’t forget Jupiter, now high in the southwest and setting by 2 am with the bright white star Spica, both in Virgo.
Monday, July 3
Happy 82nd birthday to Apollo 17 moonwalker Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. The astronaut-geologist is the 12th and last man on the Moon in December 1972 with Gene Cernan, deceased. Schmitt, the only scientist to go to the Moon, parlayed the fame to a stint as US Senator from his home state of New Mexico. Today he is an active advocate of returning to the Moon.