Saturday: The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks this week and on into mid-August. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Aquarius near the star Delta Aquarii, also known as Skat. This point is about one and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeastern horizon at 1 am tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain a fist above Fomalhaut, the brightest star in that section of the sky. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain a fist above Fomalhaut, the brightest star in that section of the sky. The Moon is just past the full phase meaning it is above the horizon during the prime meteor watching time. For more information about this year’s shower, go to https://earthsky.org/?p=159138. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Meteors are tiny rocks that hit the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere.
Sunday: Jupiter is about a half a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the Moon at 11:00 p.m. Saturn is about two fists to the upper right of Jupiter. They are low in the southeastern sky.
Monday: Tonight’s challenge: try to find Venus a half a fist above the west-northwestern horizon at 9:30 p.m. Tonight’s bigger challenge: try to find the star Regulus and the planet Mars to the lower right of Venus, about midway between Venus and the horizon.
Tuesday: What you see with the naked eye isn’t all that can be seen. While astronomers can learn a lot from observing the sky in the visible wavelengths, many celestial objects radiate more light, and more information, in wavelengths such as radio, microwave, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma ray. In 2012, NASA launched the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to study objects that radiate in the infrared range such as asteroids, cool dim stars, and luminous galaxies. For an interesting comparison of how different wavelengths show different aspects of celestial objects, go to http://goo.gl/nvuax. For example, if it weren’t for infrared telescopes such as WISE, astronomers would not know about the significant amount of dust in galaxies. We also wouldn’t know how much brighter than the Sun red supergiant stars are. Antares is a red supergiant star, currently sitting at one and a half fists above the southern horizon and a half a fist below the Moon. In the visible wavelengths, Antares shines 10,000 times brighter than the Sun. But since Antares is much cooler than the Sun, its energy distribution peaks in the infrared. So across all wavelengths of light, Antares shines 60,000 times brighter than the Sun.
Wednesday: Altair is nearly five fists above the southeastern horizon at 11:00 p.m.
Thursday: Zubenelgenubi, the second brightest star in the constellation Libra. The name means "southern claw", a holdover from the time when this part of the sky was associated with the neighboring constellation of Scorpius the scorpion. Zubenelgenubi is a binary star system, easily seen with binoculars as a white and yellow pair. To a person living on a planet orbiting the dimmer of the two stars, the brighter star would be nearly as bright as the full Moon appears from Earth. Zubenelgenubi is one and a half fists above due southwest at 10:30 p.m.
Friday: Uranus is one fist to the left of the Moon at 4:30
a.m. With a pair of binoculars, get the Moon in the right hand portion of the
field of view. Then move the binoculars a little to the left until you see a
little “W” shaped group of stars. The supper left point of light is Uranus.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.