This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 21 – July 28

Constellations are not the only stellar figures in the night sky. Any imaginative figure seen that is not one of the 88 constellations is called an asterism. The Big Dipper in Ursa Major and the Sagittarius Teapot are two of the most prominent. Others require binoculars or a telescope, such as the Coathanger and ET star clusters. One I read about in Sky & Telescope magazine a couple of years ago is a smiley face in Cygnus the Swan. Scan with binoculars just below the swan’s right (western) wing near the brightest star in that wing, and look for a pair of eyes above a semicircle grin of five stars. You will probably smile back.

This summer, spend some time scanning the night sky randomly and let your imagination run wild. Pareidolia is a phenomenon in which your mind sees a familiar pattern where none exists. Just as we imagine figures in clouds by day, we can imagine them in the stars at night. Let me know what you see.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:48 am and sunset will occur at 9:01 pm, giving 15 hours, 13 minutes of daylight (5:56 am and 9:03 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:56 am and set at 8:53 pm, giving 14 hours, 57 minutes of daylight (6:04 am and 8:56 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Saturn on Tuesday and is full on Friday, July 28, the Mi’kmaq Birds Shed Feathers Moon. It is also the most distant full Moon of the year – the Puny Moon. I hope you can see it, but most eyes will be on Mars rising at opposition less than half an hour later. Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars stretch from west to east throughout the summer evenings. Mercury is stationary on Wednesday, beginning a two week plunge toward the Sun. The South Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks on Friday morning, a harbinger of the more prolific Perseid shower in three weeks.

There is public observing at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John on Friday, July 20 at 9 pm (cloud date Saturday, July 21). Friday, July 27 is Astronomy Day at the Huntsman Aquarium in St. Andrews.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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