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About Applegater. (Jacksonville, OR) 2008-current | View Entire Issue (July 1, 2022)
8 Summer 2022 Applegater
THE STARRY SIDE
Summer: A sky full of beauty,
an earth full of pain
BY GREELEY WELLS
I’m writing this during rainy spring
days, right after that snow that didn’t
last long. By the time you read this,
I bet it will feel like summer—
and a delightful celestial
season will be under way.
On June 2, just after
sunset above the west-
Castor and Pollux
form a triangle
with a thin, waxing
crescent moon. And
on June 4, if I can
get you up before
dawn, you’ll see five
side by side in a long
line, very low in the
east and rising towards
the south. Mercury
is the dimmest, then
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and
Saturn! What’s significant
here is that they’re lined up in
a perfect illustration of their orbit
around the sun! (This lineup occurs
again, but with a little more space between
the planets, on June 24.) The planets are
usually much more spread out along the
360 degrees of their paths around the sun;
it’s rare that they all are so close and so
many together. Don’t forget that we are
one of them too!
That planetary lineup makes an exciting
opening act for a beautiful summer sky.
Face north and you’ll see that the Big
Sky & Telescope (skyandtelescope.org).
Dipper, which stood on its tail (the handle)
last season, has climbed up and over the
North Star, Polaris, and is upside down,
with its tail is pointing up as it goes down
in the west. Behind the Big Dipper, to
the south a bit, you’ll find Leo the Lion
with that bright dot marking a backwards
question mark. The dot is Regulus, and the
question mark is really the lion’s mane
and heart, of course.
More bright stars are all
around! Follow the arc of
the Big Dipper’s handle
toward the south, and
you’ll come to Arcturus,
in the constellation
Boötes. (“Follow the
arc to Arcturus,” as
the old saying goes.)
In the northeast
is an even brighter
star, Deneb, the
top of the Northern
Cross. Due east rises
Altar, the middle of
three stars forming
Aquila the eagle. And
the brightest is Vega, in
Lyra and further above in
the east. These three make
up the Summer Triangle.
They will keep moving up and
westward across the sky all season.
We’ll be watching all this for quite
a while: Each night the whole show will
move about the width of a fist, held out at
arm’s length, farther and farther in a long
southerly arc to the western horizon.
Gazing up at all this celestial beauty,
let’s not forget the pickle we are in down
here on earth. My hope is that all of us—
all individuals, corporations, politicians,
and governments—will start taking some
strong actions to reverse climate change
by half before 2030. According to climate-
change experts, this is a deadline we can’t
miss, or we will start an unstoppable free
fall into a future that will be the “gift” we
give to our children and theirs. Let’s choose
instead to give them the gift of beautiful
night skies for generations to come.
— OF NOTE —
June 21 is the longest day of the
year, the solstice, and the official start
Delta Aquariids meteor shower:
Watch late July through early August,
low in the sky near dawn. The maximum
hourly rate can reach 15 to 20 meteors
in a dark sky with no moon.
Perseids meteor shower: On August
13 there will be a bright moon up during
the Perseids’ peak, I’m sorry to say. But
pick moonless times, and you will see
some meteors. Look near Cassiopeia in
the north—below the North Star and
across from the Big Dipper.
Mercury is in the dawn in June, not
visible in July, and then back in the dusk
Venus is in June’s midnight sky, then
in the dawn in July and August.
Mars and Jupiter are visible after
midnight all three months.
Saturn shows up after midnight in
June and July, and all night in August.
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