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Volume xviii, Issue 24 ~ June 17 to June 23, 2010

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Sky Watch

by J. Alex Knoll

Summer’s Shortest Nights

Still plenty to see in nine hours

The waxing moon reaches first-quarter phase Friday, appearing high in the southwest with sunset at 8:24. Each night after, the moon appears 15 degrees farther to the east and sets roughly 30 minutes later.

Thursday the moon shines less than 10 degrees to the right of Mars, well within the space of your fist held at arm’s length. A little beyond Mars shines Regulus, the heart of Leo the lion. While Mars is only a little brighter than its apparent stellar neighbor, the planet’s steady orange-hued glow stands out in stark contrast to the twinkling blue-white light of Regulus.

That same night, Saturn shines 20 degrees to the moon’s left flank. Then on Friday, the moon is less than 10 degrees below the ringed planet. By Sunday, the moon is almost due south at sunset, with the brilliant star Spica just a few degrees above the moon.

Venus shines so bright that with clear skies you can see her glowing in the east even before sunset. And despite darkening skies, your best chance to watch this evening star is right after dusk, as she quickly follows the sun to the horizon. Sunday Venus pulls within one degree of the Beehive Cluster at the center of the constellation Cancer. With the naked eye, this cluster appears as little more than a smudge of light; with binoculars, hundreds of stars pop into focus.

Jupiter rises in the east after 1am, and is high in the south before sunrise, around 5:40 this week. He is hard to miss, perched in the darkest part of the night sky.

Monday at 7:28am, the sun reaches its northernmost apex of the year, stopping in its tracks above the Tropic of Cancer, 231⁄2 degrees — not by coincidence the same as the angle of earth’s tilted axis — north of the equator. This marks the onset of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the longest day of the year, with the sun rising at 5:40 and setting almost 15 hours later at 8:35.

Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2010 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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