Stargazing tonight

At this hour, we are 82 degrees with a dewpoint of 60 degrees. This gives us a relative humidity of only 48%. It doesn’t get much better than this in July, folks.

And there’s more good news!

With this kind of airmass in place, we are all set for a very clear, crisp night that will be perfect for stargazing. Normally, the July haze makes stargazing a challenge, but that will not be the case tonight.

If you’re outside just after sunset, look just above the western horizon and you may see Mercury. It’s hard to spot. Just up above Mercury, and to the left a bit, is a bright and shiny “star” that you absolutely cannot miss. That is Venus. It looks like a diamond in the evening sky. The moon is getting higher up in the sky each night. It was so bright last night, even though it is no where near full yet. Jupiter is to the left of the Moon and Saturn is even farther to the left (east). See the map of the sky below.

evening-planets_2150-071818

 

Venus is the only planet named after a female and is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. But, don’t be fooled! You don’t want to go there any time soon! It’s hellish environment has pretty much scared off human exploration. It is the hottest planet, with a thick atmosphere that traps heat very efficiently (it’s 96% CO2). Temps peak at 870 degrees. Venus is the first planet we ever landed anything on and everything then and since then has been destroyed pretty quickly by the harsh environment. One last interesting thing about Venus is that it rotates opposite of the other planets. On Venus, the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. Bizarre, huh?

In my opinion, besides Venus in the west just after sunset, the best of the best comes about two hours after sunset. That is when you can look southeast and see a big, bright red “star”. That is no star, though. That is Mars. It’s only about 37 million miles away these days. When you look at it tonight, imagine the day when you’ll look up and know that we are either there or that we have been there.

Someday, that will be true.

Keep a look out for shooting stars. There aren’t any prominent meteor showers tonight but it will certainly be clear enough to see some shooting stars. I’ve seen several over the past week without even trying. And watch for those little, bitty white “stars” that move across the sky. Those are satellites. Try counting them. There’s a bunch of those rascals up there!

The sunset should be quite nice this evening, as well. Always look out for those. And don’t try running back into the house to get your phone to take a pic. It’ll all be over before you can get back outside. Trust me (ha).

And, as always, keep a look out for UFOs. Hey, you never know, right? 🙂

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