Star Light, Star Bright: Summer Stargazing Opportunities
Summer nights are best spent with friends, a bonfire, some s’mores and a little bit of stargazing.
A night under the stars is the perfect way to end a fun summer day while out enjoying nature. The cooler temperatures and pleasant-sounding nightlife create a relaxing ambience that melts the stress away. Every night is a good night for stargazing, but this summer, some days are better than others. So before your next celestial excursion, take a look at these must-see summer stargazing opportunities.
Meteor Showers: July 29-30 & Aug. 11-12
Look out for two meteor showers this summer. The first is the Delta Aquarids, occurring July 29 and 30. The shower normally lasts about a week, but it peaks during the late evening and early morning of these two days. The second shower is the Persedis meteor shower. At its peak, the Persedis produces more than 60 meteors per hour, making it one of the best showers to observe. The shower starts on July 17 and ends Aug. 24, but it peaks during the night of Aug. 11 and the morning of Aug. 12. Make sure to drive far enough away from any light pollution to get a great view of the showers.
Even when you’re away from any light pollution, the light from the moon sometimes blocks out a lot of the stars. This is where new moons come in. Because new moons do not produce any extra light, you achieve maximum visibility of the night sky. Appearing on June 23, July 23 and Aug. 21, these three new moons should not be missed!
Constellations change based on the time of year and your location. Without knowing the constellations, the sky looks like a random assortment of stars. That being said, seven constellations will be completely visible during the summer months: Aquila, Cygnus, Hercules, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, and Scorpius. Now that you know what is going to be in the sky, research what they look like and point them out during your next stargazing experience.
On June 15, Saturn is going to be at opposition, meaning that the planet will be the brightest and easiest to see. The sun will be shining directly on the face making it very easy to view with a medium or large telescope. The rings of Saturn will be visible along with a few of its brightest moons.
Total Solar Eclipse
Solar eclipses are every astronomers' dream to see and something everyone should try and witness at least once. They are so rare that the last solar eclipse that passed through the lower 48 states happened in 1979, making this close to an extremely rare experience. The eclipse will start in Oregon on Aug. 21 and end in South Carolina. While the eclipse will be partially visible in Auburn, the best view is in Tennessee, which is worth the drive for such a rare event. Be sure to mark your calendar because you won’t want to miss it!
With all of this information, you are now ready to make the most of your next stargazing experience. Though stargazing is simple and fun on its own, coming prepared will make your trip much more enjoyable. No matter how you choose to spend your summer day, the stars will always come out at the end of it. So no summer night should ever be a boring night, so long as you keep looking up!
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Julia B.