Hey, Sky Fans! I hope you had a great weekend. Here’s a quick astroprogramming note: The NASA/JPL Juno probe will be doing another science flyby of the planet Jupiter today, and this one promises to be a doozy. At about 9:55PM Eastern / 6:55PM Pacific (1:55 AM Tuesday UTC), Juno will come within about 2200 miles / 3500 km of Jupiter’s cloud tops. Then, a short time later, it’ll fly right over and give us our first close-up look at the Great Red Spot, the solar system’s biggest storm. It’s a storm so big it could swallow Earth twice over. Keep an eye on the news over the next couple of days. This should be incredible. Here’s some more from NASA.
Ok… Today, I was up early this morning. It happens. There’s always that moment when you’re up, wide awake but with the skies still dark, when you’re done with sleep and you might as well just get on with your day. You need to be careful, though, not to wake everyone else up. That’s one point for living alone.
So, I put up the coffee at too-early-o’clock, slipped into something approximating a pair of shoes, stepped out into the dark, and did my best to not ruin the mornings of the slugs and crickets that were just doing their usual thing in the garden outside my house. They certainly don’t need some stumbling clod stumbling over their clods for no reason.
I don’t get out under the morning skies enough. They’re just too early. That might sound silly (“Really? Morning is early? Truly, you have a dizzying intellect, Scott”). This time of year, around here, the Sun’s rising at around 5:30. While sunrise is slowly getting later as the days shorten and we move in the general direction of fall, you still need to be up pretty early to see a dark morning sky before the AM twilight comes in and butterflies replace the moths.
As I stepped outside, the world was quiet and peaceful. I grabbed my mug and sat alone on the curb near my door. There, lowish but very bright was the planet Venus; the “hot enough for you?” one. Venus left the nighttime a while ago, and in the meantime, we’ve been talking lots about the comings and goings of Jupiter and Saturn. Venus has been there, in the mornings. This morning, it was a beautiful, stunning sight, just over the houses and trees across the street.
Venus is in the constellation Taurus these days, and this morning it was up near Aldebaran and the V-shaped Hyades cluster. Taurus? Now? That’s right. You might think of these stars as Winter stars if you’re in the northern hemisphere (summer stars in the south) and that’s true, but only because we’re used seeing the stars at night. All the winter’s night’s stars are in the summer’s morning sky.
As we make our way around the Sun, our night sky points toward different parts of the galaxy at different times of the year. So, for now, if you miss your old wintertime friends, they’re still there; up, out, and visible in the early part of the mornings now. Here’s some “art” I did for a different post last summer.
Let’s say that flag represents your house. The daytime sky always points toward the Sun, of course. See how the nighttime sky in February points toward different stars than the nighttime sky in August? That’s what’s going on here. All those stars are there, but they’re washed out by the bright Sun.
The morning’s sky can be a real, easily overlooked treat. The part of the day, before everyone starts rushing around to get wherever they need to be, the world is at its calmest and quietest. If you catch it just right, the world, the sky, the universe is all yours. If you have a few early minutes, why not have a look, and see some old friends?
Clear skies, everyone.