Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

July 2014

1st – Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon near the star Regulus. This is the brightest star of Leo the Lion!

2nd – Looking to the northeast around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see bright planet Venus. Look below and to the right of Venus to see the bright red star Aldebaran!

3rd –Today the Earth is at aphelion or its farthest point from the sun this year. Despite this fact we experience the hot summer weather due to the tilt of Earth’s axis.

4th – Chinese astronomers observed a super nova in Taurus the bull on this date in 1054 A.D.  It was 4 times brighter than planet Venus and could be seen in the day!

5th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see Mars just above the gibbous moon. Look to the left of the moon to see the bright star Spica!

6th - Looking to the south around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see a bright star called Fomalhaut. This star is part of the constellation Piscis Austrinus or the Southern Fish.

7th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see Saturn just above the gibbous moon. Looking to the right of the moon is the star Zubenelgenubi.

8th – Looking to the northwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. This pattern is the head of Leo the Lion.

9th – Looking to the south around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the gibbous moon. Look below and to the right of the moon to see the red star Antares which is part of the constellation Scorpius

10th – The International Astronomical Union has classified Pluto as a dwarf planet and a Plutoid. A Plutoid is any dwarf planet found outside the orbit of Neptune.

11th – On this date in 1979 America’s first space station, Skylab, fell back to Earth. To spot the International Space Station which currently orbits Earth, visit nasa.gov.

12th – Tonight’s full moon is known as the Buck Moon because buck deer get new antlers at this time of the year. You will see the moon from just after sunset to just before sunrise.

13th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the red planet Mars just above the blue-white star Spica!

14th – Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “w”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

15th – Looking to the northeast around 5:15 tomorrow morning you will see bright planet Venus. Below and to the left of Venus you may be able to see Mercury!

16th – Looking to the northwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. You will see an example of a visible double star in the middle of the handle of the dipper.

17th – Looking toward the center of the sky around midnight you will see the bright stars, Vega, Deneb and Altair. These 3 stars form the summer triangle and can be seen all summer.

18th – Looking to the south around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “J”. This is the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.

19th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a tea pot. These stars are part of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

20th – 45 years ago the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon while Michael Collins remained in orbit around the moon!

21st –Looking to the east around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see the red star Aldebaran below the crescent moon. This star is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull!

22nd – The International Astronomical Union officially recognizes 88 constellations in the sky. The sun passes through 13 of these constellations which are known as the Zodiac.

23rd – Looking to the northeast around 5:20 tomorrow morning you will see Venus to the left of the crescent moon. You may be able to see Mercury below Venus!

24th – You can tell the difference between a star and planet by seeing if the object twinkles. Stars twinkle but planets shine steadily in the sky.

25th – Looking to the west around midnight tonight you will see the orange star Arcturus. This star is part of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.

26th – On this date in 1949 William McMichael Shepherd was born.  This American astronaut was the first commander of the International Space Station.

27th – The stars tell us that fall will soon be here. Looking to the east around midnight you will see 4 stars that form the Great Square of Autumn.

28th – Looking to the northeast around 3 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the bright yellow star Capella. This star is one of the 10 brightest stars of the night sky!

29th – On this date in 1958, president Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act which founded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

30th – On this date in 1971 Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin land on the moon in an area known as the Hadley Rille. The lunar rover was first used on this mission.

31st –Looking to the southeast around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see three stars in a row together. These stars form the belt of Orion the Hunter!

 

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.