Volume 16, Issue 31 - July 31 - August 6, 2008

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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

Don’t Get Lost in the Glare

Summer’s Milky Way is a sight not to be missed

After months obscured by the sun, Venus is slowly pulling away from old sol, appearing briefly in the west-northwest at dusk. While still mired in the sun’s glare, Venus shines bright enough to appear low against the horizon before actual sunset, around 8:15 this week. Even so, you’re best armed with binoculars to greet the returning evening star.

Saturday evening, a whisper-thin crescent moon shines to Venus’ right, while golden Saturn glows equidistant to its left. Mars shines a dull red that much farther again to Saturn’s left. Watch over the coming month as Venus climbs higher while Saturn sinks fast with Mars following behind at a slower clip.

Jupiter remains a steady fixture through most of the night, appearing in the south-southeast at sunset. At midnight, old Jove is high in the south and continues arching westward until finally setting in the southwest around 4am.

As darkness settles, the stars of the Summer Triangle — a loose asterism with each point marked by a particularly bright star — appear overhead. Leading the three is Vega, the fifth-brightest star in the heavens. Next is Altair, the 11th-brightest, with Deneb, the 18th-brightest, closing the triangle.

Hazy summer skies and urban light pollution make it hard to see, but when looking at the Summer Triangle you are staring at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, home to our own solar system and some 400 billion other stars. The Milky Way appears as a glowing band, the combined light of countless dim, unresolved stars. Stretching more than 100,000 light years, this river of stars is one of summer’s great sites. Find some darkness and check it out.


Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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