In 2015, the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is mostly spoiled by bright moonlight. This meteor shower is named for the star Skat, or Delta Aquarius, third-brightest star in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. How to spot the star – a bit about meteor showers – plus an explanation of why meteors in annual showers have radiant points.
Tonight – July 24, 2015 – look for the waxing gibbous moon as darkness falls. The July 24 moon shines in between two bright star-like points of light: the star Spica and the planet Saturn. Spica lies to the west of tonight’s moon. Saturn lies to the moon’s east.
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower – which always happens in late July and early August – is going on now, but bright moonlight is interfering. This shower overlaps with the famous Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. It’s going to be a wonderful year for the Perseids! The moon is out of the way. Details inside.
Tonight – July 22, 2015 – as the setting sun closes the curtains on the day, and the darkening skies bring out a myriad of far-off suns, let the moon introduce you to a very special star. The nearby bright star to tonight’s moon is none other than Spica, brightest light in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.
One of the prettiest stories relating to Vega is popular in Asia, although there are many variations. In Japan, Vega is sometimes called Tanabata (or Orihime), a celestial princess or goddess. She falls in love with a mortal, Kengyu (or Hikoboshi), represented by the star Altair. But when Tanabata’s father finds out, he is enraged and forbids her to see this mere mortal. Thus the two lovers are placed in the sky, where they are separated by the Celestial River, known to us as Milky Way. Yet the sky gods are kind. Each year, on the 7th night of the 7th moon, a bridge of magpies forms across the Celestial River, and the two lovers are reunited. Sometimes Kengyu’s annual trip across the Celestial River is treacherous, though, and he doesn’t make it. In that case, Tanabata’s tears form raindrops that fall over Japan.
Many Japanese celebrations of Tanabata are held in July, but sometimes they are held in August. If it rains, the raindrops are thought to be Tanabata’s tears because Kengyu could not meet her. Sometimes the meteors of the Perseid shower are said to be Tanabata’s tears.
Tonight’s moon – July 21, 2015 – is heading on our sky’s dome toward Spica, the constellation Virgo’s brightest star. The moon crosses the ecliptic – plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun – on July 21, too. How often does that happen, and what does it mean for our view of the moon in front of the stars? Click inside …
Soon after sunset, look westward for the waxing crescent moon. Below the moon, not much above the horizon, seek for the brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter – the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial objects to adorn the night sky, after the moon. As dusk deepens, you might even spot the star Regulus forming a triangle with these two blazing planets. Be sure to look for the threesome – Venus, Jupiter and Regulus – at dusk and nightfall, for all three will follow the sun beneath the horizon by early evening.
The famous double moon hoax appears to be gearing up again. We hear that the word spread on Facebook in July, 2015 that there would be a double moon. Will this hoax ever die? It’s now 12 years old. Still, clearly, not everyone knows it’s a hoax. Google searches have made this post the most popular on our site for the past week. An email must be circulating – somewhere, social media must be buzzing – with the suggestion that Mars will appear as large as a full moon in Earth’s sky. And that is just not true.