This Is An Exciting Time For Astronomy

If you like to watch the heavens, there are some exciting events in the future.

First, On August 21, 2017, there will be a total eclipse of the sun. It will pass through 12 states in the U.S. (14 if you count tiny corners of Montana and Iowa), beginning at 9:06 am PDT in Madras, Oregon and ending at 4:06 pm EDT in Columbia, South Carolina.  As it slices across the country, an estimated 40 percent of the population will be within 300 miles of the path of totality.  Of course there’s a wealth of information on the Internet; the source I’m using is  https://www.space.com/33797-total-solar-eclipse-2017-guide.html. (The photo came from that site.)  By the way, never ever look directly at the sun, not even during an eclipse!  You should still have time to get the proper equipment for safe viewing.

Second, we’re coming up on the first day of summer — June 21.  Astronomically, that’s the summer solstice, the longest  day of the year.  In other words, the day when the sun shines the longest.  Of course, there are actually two  such events — the winter solstice is the shortest day.  But did you also know the slowest sunsets (and sunrises) occur during the time of the solstices?  That’s because the sun rises and sets farthest north (or south) of due east and due west.  The farther the sun sets from due west along the horizon, the shallower the angle of the setting sun and the longer the sunset.  To get really technical, the sunset (and sunrise) are a little longer at the winter solstice because the sun is closer to Earth in December than it is in June.  For a complete explanation, go to http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/longest-sunsets-around-solstices?.

While we’re on the subject of astronomy, did you know our sun probably had a twin?  New research claims every other sunlike star in the universe had a companion, so ours probably did, too.  It didn’t have to be an identical twin, and it probably escaped and joined the rest of the Milky Way because there’s no trace of it now.  But it’s something to think about.  The technical details are at  http://earthsky.org/space/did-our-sun-have-a-twin?.

 

 

 

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