Great Galaxy in Andromeda (M31)

Bryan Shumaker shares what's in this week's night sky, and honors the anniversary of the first solar eclipse photo

By: Bryan Shumaker,
“Boyne’s Night Sky”

Hi there stargazers! The skies have been generally clear and quite lovely, especially if you can stay up after midnight, when most of the lights are turned off. The moon is beginning to brighten again, and first quarter moon is July 26. Keep an open eye for meteors—the Delta Aquarids are at their peak over the next few days. Probably the best way to observe meteors is to sit in a comfortable lawn chair (after having used your favorite insect repellant). Gaze up towards the south east, where these meteors will tend to appear to come from. If a meteor hits the ground, it’s called a meteorite; otherwise it’s just a meteor. Expect anywhere from ten to fifty or so per hour.

July 28 marks the anniversary of the first photo of a solar eclipse in 1851, and NASA was founded on the 29th in 1958.

Great Galaxy in Andromeda (M 31) (NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador)

During this week, try and use a pair of good binoculars or a small telescope and spend some time studying the Moon. It’s best observed when it is only partially illuminated, as the sharp contrasts make observing quite spectacular. Looking along the terminator (the line between light and dark), look for the tips of the mountains to be in the sunlight, while their bases and craters are in the dark. It gives you a real sense of the rough terrain and has an almost “3-D” effect. If you have a chance, study the Milky Way with optical aid. You will see knots and clumps of stars all along, and increasing as you look closer to the galactic core. This lies in the direction of Sagittarius in the southeast. If you have downloaded a planetarium program like Stellarium (free at www.stellarium.org), it looks like a classic teapot and the “steam” coming out of the spout is a huge number of stars near the core of the galaxy.

Remember, you can ask us anything about the night sky (questions can be sent here to the paper) and you are welcome to attend our NOMAC astronomy club meetings—first Thursday of every month at 7:30PM at Raven Hill Discovery Center. Until next time, Clear Skies!

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