Sunday, June 29, 2008

Starry Splendour over Prince Albert

- Hans Daehne -

In the ice-cold grip of winter the stars shine at their brightest, because we look in the direction of the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy where the celestial objects are densely packed and thus obscure the centre itself, which as in any galaxy is a big Black Hole.

The area around the easy to find Scorpius and the complicated Sagittarius is full of celestial surprises as viewed through a pair of binoculars and through a telescope, like open and globular clusters, nebulae and double stars.

All the stars that we see are in our own galaxy and any galaxy that we see is far beyond our own galaxy. This gives you a little more perspective of the huge size of our galaxy.

After the Winter Solstice on the 21 June, the Earth will only be at its furthest distance from the Sun (aphelion) on the 4th of July namely at 152 million km; but at the speed that we are travelling along our orbit (107,000 km/h ), there’s hope that the winter will be over soon.

From 7 July, the days will grow longer by one minute in the morning and one minute in the evening – Summer is on its way!

New Moon is on 3 July, with the Moon at its closest to Earth (perigee ) on 1 July , a combination that favours rain in the north. Full Moon will be on the 18th, while on the 6th the Moon will form a lovely group with Saturn, Mars and Regulus.

A very bright Venus will become the evening star again in July just after sunset and on the 6th form a line with Mars, Saturn and Regulus.

As happened two years ago, Mars is again in Leo because it takes two years for our outer neighbour to orbit the Sun and he will speed past Saturn in the middle of the month indicating the line of the ecliptic in the process.

Jupiter is still in retrograde movement in the Archer moving westwards towards the Scorpion and will do so until September after which he will move in normal direction again towards Capricorn. Jupiter will be at opposition with the Sun on the 9th i.e. at “Full Jupiter” position and at his brightest for the whole month. Ideal to observe since he will be the brightest object in the night sky!

Saturn in Leo will be visible in the evening sky until Leo disappears from the night scene which will be at the end of August.

July is a good month to observe some meteor showers especially on the 13th (23h00 +), the 28th (21h00 +), 29th (22h00+) and the 30th from 20h00 onwards.

Keep the (shooting) stars in your eyes!

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