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Summer Stargazing Nights

Summer Stargazing Nights

Where:
Frosty Drew Observatory
When:
Friday July 12, 2019 at 6:00 p.m
Cost:
$5 Suggested Donation per person 5 years and older

Tonight is Stargazing Night at Frosty Drew Observatory and forecasts are looking quite promising for tonight’s geek out. We can expect partly cloudy skies later this afternoon, becoming mostly clear after sunset. There is a possibility for a few lingering clouds to stick around until 10:00 pm, though most sources are calling for clouds to clear out earlier. Considering we have a rather bright 84% waxing gibbous Moon hanging overhead for our entire session, minor cloud cover should not be a problem. Additionally, the high humidity of today should back off tonight as cooler temps move into the region, giving us a potentially awesome night to be out under the Moon.

We’ll open the Observatory and Sky Theatre at 6:00 pm. In the observatory courtyard our hydrogen alpha telescope will be setup offering fabulous views of the solar chromosphere, showcasing the rather quiet Sun, due to solar minimum. There is a tiny lone sunspot visible, which is one of the first sunspots of solar cycle 25, which signals that solar minimum is coming to an end. Once the Sun sets, we will direct our telescopes towards the waxing gibbous Moon, showing off intense views of Copernicus Crater, Plato Crater, Kepler Crater, and Tycho Crater. After which, Jupiter is up, sporting four Galilean Moons at first, then only three after Io orbits behind the gas giant. Following Jupiter, the big telescope will move to Saturn, which is in excellent viewing right now. On our list tonight are a handful of binary stars as well, including Albireo, Omicron Cygni, 61 Cygni, Ras Algethi, Nu Draconis, and more. The Lunar Lounge will be setup from sunset on, showing a live projection of the gibbous Moon on the Sky Theatre exterior wall. In the Sky Theatre, we will be showing our regular feature of celestial objects photographed at Frosty Drew Observatory. In the Science Center, we will partially open our Apollo 11 50th anniversary gallery, which will run until the end of July. We will close up at 11:30 pm.

Overall, tonight has all the makings of a fabulous night out. The Moon will be quite bright, so no Milky Way viewing will happen tonight, and our viewing we will be restricted to the brighter objects in the sky. Though at 84% waxing gibbous, the Moon is in a fabulous phase for observing. Add in that Jupiter and Saturn are in excellent viewing, and this could be the night you catch that first mind-blowing view of Saturn’s rings. If making the long drive to see the Milky Way, tonight is the night to skip, though if a fabulous night of astronomical goodness is needed, then stop in and catch a view of a lunar crater, Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s Rings.

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Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

This past Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Sun, Earth, and Saturn aligned, with Saturn being placed on the opposite side of Earth than the Sun. This is called the Opposition of Saturn, and places us in the best time to catch a view of Saturn. Now that opposition has passed, views of Saturn will rock socks for the next month. Observing Saturn through a telescope will reveal the fabulous system of rings as well as upwards of 6 moons, depending on the size of the telescope. Additionally, Saturn will rise before sunset each night, consecutively rising higher every night, optimally placing Saturn for viewing in the earlier hours, which is more accessible for the younger of us with bed times. Considering Saturn is so bright, like Jupiter, heavy haze or thin cloud cover will actually make for better viewing conditions, which in Southern New England, seriously increases the likelihood of catching a view. So put Saturn on your calendar and stop in at Frosty Drew Observatory on either Wednesdays or Fridays to sneak a peek.

On Sunday, July 14, 2019, the International Space Station (ISS) will return to the night sky, with nightly passes over the US. Since we are still quite close to the Summer Solstice, numerous passes will be visible each night, with a few nights offering up passes every 90 minutes (ISS orbital period). Here are a few notable passes for this week:

Mon, Jul 15 at 10:30 pm, starting in the SW, rising to 36°, heading towards the NE
Tue, Jul 16 at 9:41 pm, starting in the SSW, rising to 44°, heading towards the ENE
Wed, Jul 17 at 10:28 pm, starting in the W, rising to 41°, heading towards the NE
Thu, Jul 18 at 9:39 pm, starting in the WSW, rising to 67°, heading towards the NE
Fri, Jul 19 at 8:49 pm, starting in the SW, rising to 69°, heading towards the ENE

The times listed above are the best times during the earlier night hours and are applicable to Southern New England, but will generally be acceptable for the entire Northeast. For all pass times over this region, visit https://frostydrew.org/observatory/#satellites daily. For pass times specific to your location, visit NASA’s Spot the Station at: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/. Now get out and show off your space prowess to your friends and family by wooing them with a fantastic pass of the ISS.

On Monday, June 8, 2019, the Museum of the Moon exhibit at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence, RI kicked off. The exhibit has a 23’ diameter replica of the Moon hanging in the old warehouse, using imagery captured by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Over the next month lectures and events will be happening under the Moon almost every night. This is a free exhibit for all, so you have no reason to miss out. Check out the frequently updated calendar of events under the Moon at: https://artscenter.waterfire.org/blog/2019/the-museum-of-the-moon/, then add the Museum of the Moon to your list of Apollo 11 50th anniversary festivities.

Check out our page on Visiting Frosty Drew Observatory to learn more about what to expect at the Observatory and better help you prepare for your visit.