BEMIDJI -- Dateline, Bemidji: 14 juillet 2015: joyeux jour de Bastille and yay New Horizons flyby. A good evening to start this column. Hit this link on the web http://bit.ly/1JhzRV7...
Readable article in June's "Sky and Telescope" on how the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our understanding of astronomy in the 25 years since it launched, and on many new...
Daylight savings time starts March 8. "Spring ahead, Fall back:" set your clocks ahead one hour the night before. Nothing of note happens this Sunday, but it is St. David's Day. David is patron saint of Wales, and I'm in trouble with some readers if I don't mention that. March 16 is St. Urho's Day; wear purple and green. For more, visit the statue of Urho on U.S. Highway 71 just south of downtown Menagha. The next day is also dedicated to a saint. Wear green. Venus is our brilliant Abendstern, setting some two-and-a-half to three after Sol.
Assume February will be cold. Dress warmly; you get cold faster when you are not moving briskly. Earlier this month, Venus and Mercury paired up in the evening sky. In February, it's bright Venus and dim Mars in the WSW. On Feb. 7, Venus will be well below and a bit left of Mars. They close in night by night, Venus getting higher and Mars lower. By Feb. 27, Mars will be only a half-degree right of Venus. Venus is so much brighter that you may need binocs to see Mars.
Yearly reminders: 1. Sky and Telescope's free weekly website is www.skyandtelescope.com/ . My info comes mostly from the magazine, but you can find more there, plus breaking news. 2. January's "Sky & Telescope" includes "Skygazer's Almanac 2015," an hourglass-shaped grid showing the hours of darkness (for 40 N). The year's dates run down each side, and nighttime hours across top and bottom. Lines and symbols show when planets rise and set and other neat stuff. Other info is on the sides, for example, on Jan. 4, Earth is closest to Sol (91,401,344 miles).
Three years ago this month, I wrote "Unlike closer Uranus, Neptune can be seen only with optical aid, so it is unlikely that any sleepless prehistoric nomad, like my fictional Raki,* identified Neptune as a "wanderer" 10 millennia ago. Uranus revolves around Sol in 84.3 Earth years; you know people who have been around longer than that." Turns out I've now been around just over one Uranus year. Nobody has been around for one Neptune year, 164.8 Earth years. Don't bother looking for Jupiter in July. It is now disappearing into the sunset.
At 5:51 a.m., June 21, our longest day, Summer Solstice officially begins astronomical summer. Earliest sunrise is about a week earlier, latest sunset about a week later. For refreshers on why those don't all occur on June 21, type "earliest summer sunrise" in a search engine. Mosquitoes and ticks will be abundant soon. Jupiter dominates the SE evening sky now but by June's end it will set only an hour after Sol. Mercury is barely visible in bright evening twilight in the WNW now but will soon disappear into Sol's glare. It will be between us and Sol on June 19, but not directly.