Did you know you can figure out how long until sunset by measuring the sun’s distance from the horizon? Photo courtesy Kristin Kizer.
Aquarid meteor shower is starting to pick up steam. While it might not be
summer’s best shower (that would be the Perseids next month), the Delta
Aquarids do provide stargazers better odds of seeing “shooting stars”. The name
Delta Aquarids comes from the location in space that the meteors seem to
emanate from, the Delta star in Aquarius. While stray meteors can happen at any
time, clusters of meteors that result from Earth plowing into an old trail of
debris left behind by a comet or asteroid is what creates meteor
showers. The parent comet for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower has never
been found. Expect the peak activity in this shower to occur overnight from
July 28 to 29.
next week, the moon meets a planet and a couple of bright stars. On July 24 and
25, Saturn is the bright point of light near the moon. The planet’s rings are
closing fast, making them nearly invisible in small telescopes. July 27 the moon
moves into position next to Spica, and on the last two nights of the month the
moon is found near Antares.
The moon is
a half degree across, which means that your pinky held at arm’s length will
completely obscure it. The moon moves about 13 degrees from one night to the
next. This is why each night the moon appears to be visiting a new stellar
Once you get good at measuring and understanding degrees,
you can figure out how long until sunset by measuring the sun’s
distance from the horizon. The sun moves about 15 degrees across the sky in an
hour. Extend your arm out with your hand in a fist, and then stretch your pinky
and index finger out and apart. The distance between them measures 15 degrees
of sky. If you line your pinky up with the horizon and the sun is at your index
finger, you can expect approximately one more hour until sunset.
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Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She is currently the Feature Writer for Astronomy and Space at Suite101.com.