Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

August 2014

1st – Public telescope viewing will be held at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org

2nd – It takes Earth about 365 days to complete one orbit around the Sun while Mars takes about 687 Earth days to complete one orbit around the Sun. Mars is visible in the southwest tonight!

3rd – Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent Moon. Look to the left of the moon to see Saturn and look to the right of the Moon to see Mars.

4th – It takes Saturn about 29 Earth years to complete 1 orbit around the Sun while Earth completes an orbit about the sun in only 365 days! Saturn is visible in the southwest tonight!

5th –On this date in 1930 the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, was born. Sadly, Neil passed away on August 25, 2012. Remember him next time you look at the Moon.

6th – The Mars Curiosity rover landed on this date in 2012 at 10:32 p.m. PDT. You can learn more about the rover and its discoveries at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

7th – We now experience the Dog Days of summer. Sirius, the Dog Star, rises just before the Sun. Ancient Greek observers thought Sirius added heat to the day with the Sun!

8th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see 3 stars that form a triangle. The Summer Triangle is 1 of 4 seasonal shapes you can see throughout the year!

9th – It takes the Sun about 25 Earth days to complete one rotation at its equator while the star Altair completes one rotation in about 10 Earth hours! Altair is part of the Summer Triangle.

10th – Every full Moon has a name. Tonight’s full Moon is called the Full Sturgeon Moon because this type of fish is most easily caught in the Great Lakes at this time of year. 

11th –Earth takes about 365 days to orbit the Sun. It takes the Sun about 230 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy!

12th – Tonight is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Looking to the northeast around midnight you will see the constellation Perseus and the meteors. To see the most meteors get far from city lights.

13th – Watch Mars get closer to Saturn each night over the next 10 days! Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock each night you will see Mars in a different place each night.

14th – It takes Earth’s Moon about 27 Earth days to complete one orbit around the Earth and it completes 1 rotation on its axis in about the same time.

15th – Looking to the south around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a teapot. This group of stars is part of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

16th – Looking to the northeast around 5:30 tomorrow morning you will see Jupiter and Venus close together above the horizon. You will see bright Venus just above Jupiter.

17th – Phobos was discovered on this date in 1887 by Asaph Hall. Phobos is the larger of the 2 Martian moons. Mars is visible in the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight!

18th – Looking to the south around 9 o’clock tonight and you will see a group of stars that looks like the letter “J”. This is the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.

19th – Astronomer Milton Humason was born on this date in 1891.  He assisted Missouri native Edwin Hubble at Mt. Wilson by studying the red shift of nebulae.

20th – On this date in 1977 the Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched aboard a Titan IIIE-Centaur rocket. This robotic spacecraft studied the planets of the outer solar system.

21st – Looking to the northeast around 10 o’clock you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “W”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

22nd – Looking to the northwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. Look at the star in the middle of the handle and you will see 2 stars.

23rd –Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see Mars right below Saturn. Looking to the right of Mars you will see the star Zubenelgenubi. The 3 objects form a triangle in the sky!

24th – On this date in 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted on a new definition for a planet. As a result Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet.

25th – On this date in 1989 Voyager 2 reached Neptune and sent back the first close up views of this planet to Earth. Neptune is in the constellation Aquarius but it is not visible to the naked eye.

26th – Looking to the northeast around midnight you will see a group of stars that look like a Little Dipper. This star cluster is known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters.

27th – Don’t be fooled by the Mars hoax! Every August an email circulates saying Mars will appear as big as the moon in the sky. Mars will only appear as a point of light in the sky from Earth.

28th –Looking to the southeast around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see Orion the Hunter. You will see Orion in the night sky by late fall.

29th – On this date in 1965 Gemini V splashed down to Earth carrying astronauts Charles Conrad and Gordon Cooper.  Gemini V was in Earth orbit for nearly eight days.

30th –The stars tell us that fall will soon be here. Looking to the east around 9 o’clock tonight you will see 4 stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus which is a fall asterism.

31st – The days are getting shorter as we head towards fall. Today the Sun will set at 7:33 p.m. This is 1 hour and 36 minutes earlier than when the sun set on June 21st, the first day of summer.

September 2014

1st – Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon. Look to the right of the moon to see Saturn and red planet Mars!

2nd – The sky tells us that fall is almost here. Looking to the east around 9 o’clock tonight you will see 4 stars that form a square that are associated with autumn. This is the Great Square of Pegasus.

3rd – Looking to the east around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see Jupiter. Looking below Jupiter near the horizon you may be able to see Venus. You could fit 11 planets the size of Venus across Jupiter!

4th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the star Fomalhaut. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed an extra-solar planet near this star! You can see Hubble pictures by visiting www.hubblesite.org.

5th – Public Telescope viewing will be held at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org

6th –Tonight is International Observe the Moon Night. Looking to the southeast around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing gibbous moon. Try looking at the Moon in a pair of binoculars tonight.

7th – Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like an upside down letter “Y”. This is the fall constellation Perseus the Hero.

8th – On this date in 1966, NBC aired the first episode of the original Star Trek series. Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock you will see Capella, one of the stars visited by Captain Kirk!

9th – Tonight’s full moon is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the first full moon that is closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Farmers used to get extra time to harvest their crops by the light of this Moon.

10th – The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is 2½ million light years away which means the light we see from this galaxy is 2½ million years old!

11th – Looking to the south around 8 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a teapot. This group of stars is part of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

12th – Looking to the west around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a bright orange star called Arcturus. This star is the 4th brightest star in the sky and is part of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.

13th – Looking to the center of the sky around 10 o’clock tonight you will see three bright stars that form the summer triangle. You will see the summer triangle low in the west by November.

14th –– Looking to the northwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. If you draw an imaginary line through the 2 stars in the front of the bowl upwards they will lead you to the North Star.

15th – Looking to the southeast around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see 3 stars in a row that form a line diagonally. These stars form the belt of Orion the Hunter.

16th – Looking to the northeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the bright star Algol. This is star changes in brightness and is an eclipsing variable star.

17th –On this date in 1789 William Herschel discovered Saturn’s moon Mimas.  Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock you will see planet Saturn!

18th – Many people think the North Star Polaris is the brightest nighttime  star, however the winter star Sirius is the brightest. Look to the southeast around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning to see this star.

19th – Our Sun is one star among billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The nearest star to the Sun is Proxima Centauri which is about 4.5 light-years away!

20th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “w”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

21st –On this date in 1866 H.G. Wells was born. He wrote the novel “The War of the Worlds”, which depicts an invasion from Mars. Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see Mars.

22nd – Today is the Autumnal Equinox or the first day of fall. We will have equal amount of daylight and night time hours today but the days will continue to get shorter as the Sun sets earlier each day.

23rd – Looking to the east around midnight you will see a group of stars together. This open star cluster is known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. These stars are much younger than our Sun!

24th – Looking to the east around 1 o’clock in the morning you will see the bright red star Aldebaran. This star is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull

25th – Looking high in the east around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the bright stars Pollux and Castor. These stars are part of the constellation Gemini and will be visible at night during winter.

26th – Looking to the east around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see the bright star Regulus. This star is part of a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. This asterism is called the sickle.

27th – On this date in 1997 the robotic rover named Mars Pathfinder sent its final transmission. This little robot was used to test technology that was used to design the MER and MSL robots!

28th – Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the crescent moon. Look to the right of the moon to see Saturn. Look to the left of the Moon to see Mars just above the red star Antares.

29th – Looking to the south around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see 6 bright stars that form the winter circle. This circle will be visible in the early evening throughout winter.

30th – On this date in 1880 Henry Draper first successfully photographed the Orion Nebula. Looking to the south around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see Orion and below his belt is the nebula!