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What's up in the sky August. 2010

posted Jul 27, 2010, 1:15 PM by Marvin Stewart
                   Sometimes it is the simple things that give us the most pleasure.  And, this is one of those nights at the astronomy site at Broemmelseik Park, St Charles County.
                   Although the day had been bright with scattered clouds around sunset it had become almost clear and a light breeze would help keep the mosquitos away. It was going to be a good night to look at the sky.  As the sun was setting in the western sky, it was bright yellow. It was the kind of sunset that draws attention to itself, but tonight my main focus was to look to the east where a more suttle show was rapidly taking place. Low on the horizon was a dark blue band. On top of that a line of pinkish red, the edge of night was approaching,  Every night as the sun sets in the west,  if it is clear,  this show develops across the entire eastern horizon. The blue band is the shasow caused by the curvature of the Earth. The pinkish red is the long rays of the setting sun lighting up the atmosphere. When you first see it, the bands are a hundred to one hundred fifty miles away. The Earth at the equator is rotating at about 1040 miles an hour. At 38 degrees north, where we live, we are traveling about 818 miles an hour. The entire show doesn't last 20 minutes and only gets 15 to 20 degrees above the eastern horizon.
                  The dark band is twilight, the redish one above it is called the anti twilight, or the belt of Venus. Then it is gone. My telescope is almost ready to go. This is my quiet time, just to stand and wait for the stars to appear. The bright planet Venus is first to come out in the west. High above Arcturus is the first star to show itself in the twilight. Soon Saturn and Mars join Venus and now you can trace the ecliptic, the path the Sun takes through the sky.
                  Quickly I do the final calibrations I needed stars to complete, and the scope is ready for the night,  Another glance up and I find bright blue Vega, which  will pass directly over St. Louis tonight and the curious visitors are here too. They are all ages, many will be looking through a telescope tonight for the first time. I have to wonder who is getting the most out of this moment, them or me?  Hi, how'd you like to look at Saturn? 
                  The planet Neptune was discovered in 1846 by German Astronomer Johann Galle. That was 164 years ago, so very soon Neptune with a orbit of 165 years about the Sun will complete the first orbit since its discovery.
             Aug.   03   Last Quqrter Moon.
                        06   Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation.
                        09   Venus passes south of Saturn by about 3 deg.
                                New Moon.
                        11   The planet Mercury will be just above the Moon 9 CDT.
                  12/13    The Perseid meteor shower peaks. It should be a good show, perhaps 60 to a 100 per hour.
                        16    First quarter Moon.    
                        24    Full Moon.