Sun rises at 5:56am
Sun sets at 6:30pm
Moon phase: first quarter, waxing crescent
Moon sets at 10:06pm, Saturday
Moon rises at 11:07am, Sunday
Well, we certainly did have a great experience with the partial solar eclipse last Monday (check the composite photo taken by Emma Croes at the Little League Field in Philipsburg). I know a lot of folks unfortunately didn’t get the protective glasses as the island did run out rather quickly – apparently so did the U.S. Remind me to buy stock in the Optical Paper Company before the next eclipse! Now let’s look forward to tonight’s starry sky, graced by the dim light of the new moon, and now that the pesky eclipse is over, we can break out the binoculars again and study the sky and its features.
Look to the west after sunset to see the moon in its skinny stage, a thin crescent which will wax, or get fatter, each night until it’s full on August 7. Nearby to the moon this weekend are Jupiter and the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo (Jupiter is on the right). Farther to the right is the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes.
Shift your gaze to the right, or north, and admire the Big Dipper and above and to the right is the Little Dipper with Polaris, the North Star, situated at the end of the dipper’s handle. The Big Dipper will set early in the night, about 8:30 to 9:30pm.
Shift your gaze to the left, or south, of the moon and up, you should be able to find the planet Saturn close to the bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Scorpius. Saturn is almost directly above Arcturus.
Here’s a bit of mental gymnastics for you 3-dimensional thinkers out there. When the moon is a waxing crescent as it is this weekend, what would someone on the moon see when looking at the earth? Hint: it’s the opposite phase. Answer? If the earthbound sky gazers see the moon in a waxing crescent phase, the moon’s theoretical inhabitants would find the earth to be in a waning gibbous phase.
While this admittedly points to 11 on the geekometer, it does help us understand why the unlit portions of the new moon sometimes seem to glow darkly. The sun’s light is being reflected off the bright earth and is illuminating that dark side of the moon. Just as we on earth bask in the gentle light of the full or gibbous moon on occasion, we get moonshine (not the liquor made by my ancestors) and the moon gets earthshine. Don’t forget, binoculars are back on the eyes for such sights. Enjoy with family and friends.
Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email email@example.com