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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Astronomy

28 Jul 2017
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The summer of 2017 marks the 54th anniversary of my first successful expedition to observe a total solar eclipse. The date was July 20, 1963, when our carload of astronomy graduate students from the University of Michigan made the long drive from Ann Arbor to the path of totality in Quebec. Cumulus clouds parted—and we had a spectacular view. When it came to astronomy, I was hooked. I hope some of you have a chance to make the journey to the August eclipse’s path of totality. This event is part of the Saros series—same as the eclipse I saw in 1963. These eclipses are spaced at intervals of 18 years plus about 11 1/3 days, and after three Saros intervals—called an Exeligmos—a solar eclipse very much like the one in 1963 happens again, within a similar track through our region of the world, only farther south. Instead of Alaska through…
30 Jun 2017
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July finds bright Jupiter in the south-southwestern sky at dusk, and Saturn in the southeast, closing to 65 degrees apart by month’s end. Before dawn, Venus gleams in the east, against the attractive background of Taurus the Bull, with its two prominent star clusters and bright reddish star. On some dates, the moon forms attractive pairings with four of the five naked-eye planets, and four of the five bright zodiacal stars. In July’s evening twilight, bright Jupiter attracts attention in the southwest, with bluish Spica nearby to its left, and golden Arcturus high above them. Yellowish Saturn glows steadily in the southeast to south-southeast, in contrast to the vigorously twinkling reddish star Antares, heart of the Scorpion, to its right. The star reaches south in mid-twilight near month’s end. The Summer Triangle, topped by its brightest star, blue-white Vega, ascends in the eastern sky. The Triangle’s other members are Altair,…
30 May 2017
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Mid-June finds bright Jupiter high in the south-southwest at dusk, and Saturn low in the southeast, some 70 degrees apart. At dawn, Venus gleams in the east, while Saturn is low in the southwest. The moon forms attractive pairings with various planets and stars here and there throughout the month. In our June evening twilight sky, bright Jupiter stands high in the south to southwest at dusk, with Spica nearby, to its lower left. As Jupiter ends retrograde motion against background stars in early June, it reaches a maximum distance of just more than 11 degrees west-northwest of Spica. Keep watch this summer, until Jupiter passes just 3 degrees north of Spica on Sept. 11. By then, they’ll be low in the west-southwest at dusk. After that, the next time Jupiter passes Spica will be during their triple conjunction in 2028-2029. Also in June, we find Saturn rising in the…

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