Huestis: Astronomical Potpourri in July
Saturday, July 01, 2017
These cloudy/rainy conditions certainly put a dampener on the public open nights at the local observatories. Each year when this happens I often say it can’t get any worse. Then it does!
But once in a while we do get a good clear night. The night of May 16 was perfect. After so many weeks of less than ideal sky conditions forcing closures, Ladd Observatory in Providence opened its dome for public viewing. We were deluged (pun intended) with visitors. They were all treated to fantastic views of Jupiter and his four Galilean moons (until Ganymede disappeared behind the disk of the planet). Ladd Observatory Manager Bob Horton and I estimated 150 folks enjoyed the gorgeous view provided by the 12-inch Brashear refractor telescope that night.
Jupiter will continue to be favorably placed for observation during July. On the first it will form a nice triangle with Virgo’s bright star Spica and a waxing gibbous Moon. By month’s end Jupiter will set just before 11:00pm, so come out to any of the local observatories to take a look at this beautiful planet before it gets too low in the sky to be easily observed.
However, as July begins everyone will be treated to views of the magnificent ringed-planet Saturn. I’m sure Saturn will soon replace Jupiter as the main focus of our open nights. As long as the skies are cloud-free we will be observing Saturn and his absolutely beautiful rings throughout the summer and into mid fall. If the local observatories should encounter cloudy skies for several consecutive weeks, once they reopen be sure to arrive early. For when Saturn is in view crowds descend upon the public open nights.
Currently Saturn’s rings are tilted almost to their maximum angle possible— about 27 degrees— providing a remarkable three-dimensional view of them and the disk of the planet. In astronomer Garrett P. Serviss’ 1901 book, Other Worlds, he wrote, “Many telescopic views in the heavens disappoint the beginner, but that of Saturn does not. Even though the planet may not look as large as he expects to see it from what he has been told of the magnifying power employed, the untrained observer is sure to be greatly impressed by the wonderful rings, suspended around it … No previous inspection of pictures of these rings can rob them of their effect upon the eye and the mind. They are overwhelming in their inimitable singularity, and leave every spectator truly amazed.” I couldn’t agree more.
Contrary to popular belief, the Earth is not at its closest distance to the Sun in July. Our planet is actually at aphelion (farthest from the Sun) on July 3 at about 94,505,901 miles at 4:11pm EDT. It just so happens that the tilt of the Earth’s polar axis has the northern hemisphere tipped toward the Sun at that time, providing more direct sunlight for us. At perihelion (Earth closest to the Sun) back on January 4, the Earth-Sun distance was 91,404,322 miles. The difference, just over three million miles (or 7 percent), has little effect on our planet. However, northern hemisphere summer is warmer than its southern hemisphere counterpart because of the fact that there is much more land mass north of the Earth’s equator to absorb the solar radiation.
Our solar system’s innermost planet Mercury can also be glimpsed this month, providing you have an unobstructed view of the western horizon after sunset. Mercury will be less than ten degrees above that horizon at its highest. Increase your chances of seeing it by looking on July 25 soon after sunset. Mercury will be about seven degrees to the lower right of a waxing crescent Moon, and just one degree (equivalent to two full moon diameters) to the lower left of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.
And finally, the Moon will not affect observation of two late month meteor showers. These overlapping shooting star displays are best observed from the southern hemisphere, but approximately 15-20 Delta Aquarids and Alpha Capricornids can be seen between midnight and dawn from July 28-30 locally. Face south and scan from the horizon to zenith and left to right. Both showers display fairly bright yellow meteors, while the Alpha Capricornids are noted for producing brilliant fireballs. However, you might see more fireflies than meteors, depending upon sky conditions. That scenario can make it all worthwhile.
Though it doesn’t get sufficiently dark to observe the heavens until after 9:15pm or so during July, all of the local observatories will remain open during the summer months. Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is open every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every clear Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Wednesday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night. Check the respective websites for open times.
As always, keep your eyes to the skies.
Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Countdown: 51 days as of July 1, 2017.
Related Slideshow: 25 Things to Look Forward to in New England This Summer - 2018
Sipping Del's Lemonade on a Hot Day
While you can probably find Del's Lemonade somewhere during any month of the year, drinking it in the winter is just not the same as when it is a hot day in the midst of summer.
As summer approaches, be sure to locate our nearest Del's Lemonade stand.
Waterfire is back for the summer and it's an event and experience that must be had.
Waterfire is Providence's signature event bringing in people from all over New England and the country to see it.
A great night out for families and couples alike.
Visiting Southwick Zoo
Can't wait to get back to the zoo and visit the animals at Southwick Zoo. Be sure to check out the new baby zebra that the zoo just welcomed.
The Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Taking a Cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the M/S Mount Washington
Lake Winnipesaukee offers some of the best scenery in all of New England and there is no better place to see it from then the M/S Mount Washington.
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival takes place from June 1 to June 10 in downtown Burlington, Vermont.
This 10 day celebration features four stages with free live music from Leslie Odom Jr. and more. The festival also will feature local food and much more.
For more information, click here.
Walking Along Narragansett Beach
Look forward to taking a stroll all the way from chair six to chair one as the waves crash along the shore.
Keep an eye out for sea glass as Narrow River or The Towers come into view.
Taking a Cruise on a Windjammer
Head to Maine and sleep aboard a National Landmark, the Maine Windjammer Fleet.
Go on a three, four or six-day cruise and get closer than ever before to wildlife like whales, eagles, and porpoises while you see some of the best coastal scenery that North America has to offer.
After a successful first festival, the PVDFest returns to Providence for the third year and will take place from June 7 to June 10.
The festival will bring in art, music, performances and more from all over the United States and the world for the free outdoor festival.
Catching a Worcester Bravehearts Game
Year after year, the Worcester Bravehearts are one of the best baseball teams in New England.
They bring in some of the best college talent from across the region to compete for the Futures League Championship.
Don't miss a game.
Newport Folk Festival
The Newport Folk Festival is set to be held from July 27-29 and will feature bands such as Wilco, Fleet Foxes, and The Avett Brothers.
Don't miss out on one of the biggest concert events of the summer.
Visiting Cape Playhouse Theatre
Taking a ride to Cape Cod and visit the oldest summer theatre in the country, Cape Playhouse. Cape Playhouse was first opened in 1927 by Raymond Moore.
The theatre has been home to some of the biggest stars to ever grace a stage like Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart amongst others.
Enjoying the South County Hot Air Balloon Fest
There is nothing quite like the Hot Air Ballon Fest. This is the place to enjoy glowing hot air balloons, crafts, music, food, fishing, carnival rides, fireworks, and more.
The festival will be held from July 20-22 on the URI athletic fields.
Participating in the Worcester World Cup 2018
The 2017 Worcester World Cup is set to take place from Friday, August 10 to Sunday, August 12.
The Worcester World Cup is more than a soccer tournament. It's a celebration of Worcester and a safe, friendly family event that people look forward to all year.
Newport Jazz Festival
The 2018 festival is set to take place from Friday, August 3 to Sunday, August 5.
The festival will show off over 50 individual jazz ensembles on four stages including performances at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Fort Adams State Park.
Seeing a Movie at the Rustic Drive-In
Look forward to Calling up your friends, pack a picnic, and sit in your car as feature films are projected on giant outdoor screens.
The audio plays right through your radio, so be sure to turn the volume up high as you snack on your candy and popcorn.
Zip Lining in the Berkshires
Looking for something new and exciting? Head to the Berkshires and get yourself on a zip line, maybe even do a canopy tour.
There are three different tour options, starting with the base area tour which lasts an hour or the Moutain Top or Valley Jump tour which takes three hours. Both of those are sure to shoot some adrenaline into your day.
Watching 4th of July Fireworks
The 4th of July, the holiday of the summer.
It is never too early to start planning your day and figuring out exactly where you are going to watch a parade and fireworks this year.
Eating a Clam Cake From Flo’s
Be excited about heading to Flo's and taking a bite of a Flo’s clam cake and you’ll understand why they’ve been around since 1936.
Dip it in a side of tartar sauce or enjoy as is.
The Little League World Series
While the Little League World Series does not take place in New England, the series is arguably the marquee sporting event of the summer.
There will be a New England team in it this year and therefore, the Little League World Series is always something to look forward to
Boston Calling, the first New England music festival of the season kicks off in downtown Boston on the weekend of May 25 to the 27.
The festival features a performance from Eminem and much more.
Vermont Summer Festival
The Vermont Summer celebration features everything from horses to shopping at onsite boutiques and plenty of places for food and drinks.
The celebration takes place from July 3 through August 12.
Playing Golf at Harbor Lights
Harbor Lights in Warwick offers golfers a great place to tee it up this summer.
Not to mention the amazing scenery and the great food at the Par + Tackle restaurant.
RI International Film Festival
The Rhode Island International Film Festival will celebrate their 35th anniversary beginning on August 7 and going through August 12.
The Festival features the best local films made with some of the best local talent.
Catching a PawSox Game at McCoy
Nothing says summer time like sitting at McCoy Stadium and watching a Pawtucket Red Sox game.
While the PawSox are already in action, the weather is getting warmer and it will be much more comfortable to go out to a game.
Billy Joel at Fenway Park
For the 5th consecutive year, rock and roll legend Billy Joel will play Fenway Park.
Billy Joel released his first hit song, arguably still his biggest hit, Piano Man in 1973 and since then has become the 6th best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States.
Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and then the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
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