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Summer Stargazing Nights - Summer Solstice

Summer Stargazing Nights - Summer Solstice

Frosty Drew Observatory
Friday June 21, 2019 at 6:00 p.m
$5 Suggested Donation per person 5 years and older

Today is the Summer Solstice, when Earth reaches the point in our orbit where maximum tilt (23.4º) towards the Sun happens. This marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also Stargazing Night tonight at Frosty Drew Observatory, and forecasts are looking quite good. The rather dismal conditions of the daytime hours will clear out later this afternoon, leaving clear skies for us to celebrate the first night of summer. Add in that the 83% waning gibbous Moon does not rise until 11:45 pm, and we’ll have super dark skies to rock our night!

The Observatory and Sky Theatre will open at 6:00 pm this afternoon. In the observatory courtyard we will attempt to setup our hydrogen alpha telescope, showcasing views of the solar chromosphere and any sunspots or prominence that may be visible. Last Friday we had a fabulous prominence in view! Solar viewing this afternoon depends on when the clouds clear out, so we’ll start on standby. Once the Sun sets, we’ll switch over to stargazing mode and direct our telescopes towards the night sky. On the list are numerous celestial objects only visible on dark nights, including the Messier 13 star cluster, The Dumbbell Nebula, The Ring Nebula, Albireo, and more. Once Jupiter rises above the trees, we will direct the big telescope towards the gas giant, which will sport all four Galilean Moons. At the end of our night, we will make another attempt at our first view of Saturn for the viewing season. In the Sky Theatre we will show our regular feature of celestial objects photographed at Frosty Drew Observatory. We will close up at 11:30 pm, before the Moon chases us out.

Overall, tonight looks like a good night to be out. Clouds will depart later this afternoon, with a few lingering into the twilight hours, alongside haze which is always a possibility in Southern New England. Though almost all forecasting sources are calling for clear skies tonight. Being that the gibbous Moon does not rise until near midnight, we also have a chance at dark sky viewing, including a potential view of the Milky Way in the hour before moon rise. The temperatures tonight will be a bit warmer than they have been, which will bring out the mosquitoes. Be sure to read the section about Mosquitoes and Insects on our Visiting the Observatory page at: Then gear up and set out for the first night of summer at Frosty Drew Observatory and celebrate the Summer Solstice with a night out under the stars!

Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

At 11:54 am ET this morning, the Summer Solstice happened, which is when Earth arrives at the point our our orbit around the Sun, where we are at maximum 23.4º tilt towards the Sun in the north. Today the Northern Hemisphere will experience the shortest nighttime period of any day this year. Along the Tropic of Cancer, the Sun will pass directly overhead at noon, with the Arctic Circle seeing 24 hours of daylight, and the Antarctic Circle experiencing 24 hours of night. After today, the days start to get shorter, so enjoy the long days while they last.

This past Tuesday, June 18, 2019 marked 10 years since the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is currently orbiting the Moon. Launching on June 18, 2009, LRO entered lunar orbit on June 23, 2009, with the mission kicking in on September 15, 2009. Aside from mapping the entire lunar surface, LRO has discovered that the Moon is gradually shrinking, mapped locations of water ice around the lunar poles, and has imaged the Apollo landing sites in fantastic detail, among many other accomplishments. With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing coming this July 20th, now is a great time to revel in the fabulous imagery of the landing sites captured by LRO. Catch up on all the amazing things that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is doing, then check out amazing images of the Apollo landing sites captured by LRO.

Have a happy Summer Solstice from all the astro-geeks at Frosty Drew Observatory!