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Summer starry starry nights!

This article appeared in the June 21, 2013 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Vinita Domier

Special to the Enterprise  

Everyone is invited to the Davis Astronomy Club's next meeting on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at Explorit Science Center (3141 5th Street, Davis) starting at 7:30pm for a free presentation on the wonders of the summer night sky. All ages are welcome to attend the discussion about the featured topic, followed by a star party to see the wonders of the starry sky through telescope. For more information, please contact Vinita Domier at vcdomier@yahoo.com.

Warm summer nights make for ideal stargazing opportunities for backyard astronomers of all ages. Many celestial wonders can be enjoyed by the unaided eye in both dark and semi-dark environments. Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, comprising of billions of stars, is clearly visible overhead as a ribbon of milky white light spanning the summer sky in relatively dark locations.

The Summer Triangle is visible overhead with the naked eye throughout the summer. Three very bright blue-white stars (Vega in Lyra constellation, Deneb in Cygnus constellation, and Altair in Aquila constellation) form the vertices of the big triangular pattern in the sky. The Ring Nebula (M57), a beautiful planetary nebula in Lyra, is visible through a small telescope.

Other easily identifiable summer constellations are Hercules, Bootes, Virgo, Scorpius, and Sagittarius. Globular clusters (M13 and M92) comprising of around hundred thousand stars in Hercules can be with the aid of a small telescope. Arcturus (in Bootes) and Antares (in Scorpius) are visibly red-orange stars, and Spica (in Virgo) is a white star. Globular cluster (M4) in Scorpius and many star clusters and nebulae in Sagittarius are telescopic objects.

Other wonders to see in the night sky with the naked eye are solar system objects like the planets and the moon. This summer, Saturn is visible in the southern sky all evening long. Using a small telescope reveals its beautiful rings that are always amazing to behold. Venus is an ‘evening star’ this summer, while Jupiter and Mars are visible in the pre-dawn sky.

The full moon on June 22, 2013, is a special ‘supermoon’, and will appear slightly larger than usual because the moon is at its perigee (closest to earth in its orbit).

The annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12, 2013, is another summertime astronomical highlight. These ‘shooting stars’ are best viewed by looking towards the northeastern part of the night sky in a relatively dark location. Dust particles left behind from the comet Swift-Tuttle create spectacular streaks in the night sky when they vaporize upon entry in the earth’s atmosphere.

 

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Explorit’s events:

• Saturday, June 22 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.: Linda Merchant, artist and educator form the High Hand Gallery in Loomis, will be hosting a drop spindle demonstration.  Drop spindles are devices for spinning raw textiles like wool roving into yarn or thread by hand.  Free with paid admission to the museum 

• Saturday, June 29 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.: Linda Merchant returns to Explorit to demonstrate realist painting with oils and pastels.  She uses a layered process to achieve detail and precision in her work on wildlife, still life, portraiture and more.  Free with paid admission to the museum.

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org.  You can also “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb or follow us on twitter at @ExploritScience.

 
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