Summer Stargazing Nights

Summer Stargazing Nights

Frosty Drew Observatory
Friday August 17, 2018 at 7:00 p.m
$5 Suggested Donation per person 5 years and older

Tonight is Stargazing Night at Frosty Drew Observatory and forecasts are all over the place. From what we can gather, we can likely expect cloudy conditions later this afternoon and into the evening, with t-storms moving into the area after 11:00 p.m. There is massive variability in the forecast, though variability exists with when t-storms move in. Sadly, the forecast is very similar to the endless fog, clouds, t-storms, and heavy rain that we’ve been seeing since the start of August. Tonight could have been another awesome night of fabulous lunar viewing with the Moon showing off a beautiful first quarter phase. Additionally, the occasional Perseid meteor would have blazed the sky.

We will open the Observatory at 7:00 p.m. tonight. Our night will start off on standby as we evaluate sky conditions on site. If skies are clear enough at 8:00 p.m. we will direct our telescopes towards Jupiter and the Moon. Jupiter will have all four Galilean Moons in view as well as the Great Red Spot. If skies remain acceptable, we will direct our telescopes towards Saturn, and Mars – where the dust is finally settling. If weather is killing our views, we will showcase previously captured images on the Observatory screen with a commentary and discussion on general astronomy. This will also give the gearheads that visit a chance to check out our techno-geek cred. We will stay open until 11:30 p.m. if skies work out. Otherwise, we will pack up at 10:00 p.m.

Overall, on the weather front, tonight is not a great night to be out. The cosmos have a fantastic night lined up, though Southern New England weather is not on board. Being that there is much confusion among forecasters on what will actually happen tonight, we could score. Variability usually favors us, though not for the past month. If clouds are thin enough, we could score fantastic views of the planets, and the Moon always serves as a good fallback in between passing clouds. We will post regular updates to our Twitter (@FrostyDrewOBSY), which are also posted on the right column of our website. Check in before setting out, as we will post a “Closing up” update when we decide to pack up. There are a lot of scenarios that work out to our favor tonight, so if you’re feeling risky, stop in at Frosty Drew Observatory and hope with the best!

Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

Today, August 17, 2018 is the official 2018 date of the Chinese Qixi (KEY-she) Festival, which is a celestial Valentines Day for Asia. The date of the Qixi Festival, according to legend, is decided as the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, when a bridge of magpies form over the Milky Way which passes in between the bright star Vega, and Altair; two of the three stars that form the Summer Triangle asterism. The legend is the commonly told tale of two lovers of significantly different demographics that cannot be together for various reasons. Vega represents the immortal / royal / wealthy lover and Altair represents the mortal / common / poor lover. In Japanese culture, the common lover does may make the trip across the bridge, this can be decided if it rains during the event, which represent the tear drops of remaining lover.

Vega is the 5th brightest star in Earth’s night sky, and the third brightest star in the mid-northern latitudes, with only Sirius and Arcturus outshining. Vega is found in the constellation Lyra, the harp, and resides at a distance of 25 light years. A blue star, Vega is quite hot, with surface temps approaching 17,000°F. Vega has about 2.5 times the diameter of the Sun and produces about 40 times more energy. Take a moment tonight, step outside, and look to the zenith (top of the sky) to spot a rather large triangle of three stars. The brightest star is Vega. Then have a special moment with your partner to celebrate Qixi.