7,6,5 – countdown to the Solar Eclipse, plus a seagoat in your night sky

We are only week and counting as I post this today (Monday, Aug 14) for Solar Eclipse on August 21st.  This is an event you want to make sure to see.  Along with the eclipse we have planets and a seagoat in our evening skies.  Here is your guide to the sky for August 14 to 21, 2017…

Last Quarter Moon, New Moon and Solar Eclipse on August 21st

Last Quarter Moon takes place today at 9:15 pm and the Moon is at Perigee on Friday.  The New Moon is on Monday, August 21st at 2:30 pm.  This is a special New Moon as it is at a syzgy or perfect alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth creating a Total Solar Eclipse.  To see a total solar eclipse you must be in the “Path of Totality” which is the path of the Umbral (darkest shadow) cast onto Earth.  For this one the path runs from western Oregon to eastern South Carolina.  The path is about 75 miles wide, so it is quite narrow.  On either side of the path one will see a Partial Solar Eclipse.  This is what we will experience here in Maine.  For us the solar eclipse starts at 1:36 pm, the maximum is at 2:46 pm with roughly 54.7% of the Sun obscured by the Moon here in Bangor, and it ends at 3:55 pm.  To view it you will need special equipment (see last post for details).

Partial Solar Eclipse

On Wednesday at 5:30 pm join me for a free presentation at the Bangor Public Library to learn all about eclipses!  The August Friday night show at Emera Astronomy Center  Totality – Explore the Wonders of Eclipses shares all of the conditions for eclipses, science we learn and how to see them safely.  Do check it out!.  See http://astro.umaine.edu for details and tickets.  Emera Astronomy Center will also have free solar eclipse viewing on August 21st from 1:00 to 4:00 pm using safe viewing methods.

Planets for the week

Mercury and Mars are lost in the glare of the Sun this week.  If you get to the path of totality and have clear weather, you might catch them during the total solar eclipse, with Mars being to the west of the Sun and Mercury being to the east of it.  Jupiter is in the southwestern sky setting around 9:45 pm, so catch it as soon as possible after sunset.  Saturn is high in the south at sunset and easy to see until it sets around 1:00 am. Venus rises around 2:30am in the east as a bright morning star.  Look for it with the waning crescent Moon on Saturday morning when they will be only two degrees apart.

August 17th at 9pm – Star chart courtesy of Heavens-Above.com

It’s a goat, no it’s a fish – Actually it is a Seagoat!

Capricornus is a faint constellation visible in the southeastern skies of late summer.  How the Greeks came up with such a strange creature is hard to say, but try finding this faint “boomerang” shaped group in the early evening. The Greeks associated the constellation with the forest deity Pan who had the legs and horns of a goat.  He was honored in the sky for coming to the rescue of the other gods on occasion.  During the war between the gods and the Titans, Pan used his conch shell to scare the Titans.  He also outsmarted a monster called Thphon who was sent by Gaia by jumping into the Nile river and turning the lower part of his body into a fish – hence the seagoat.  Zeus eventually killed Typhon with his thunderbolts and place Pan in the sky to honor his service to the gods.

Capricornus the Seagoat

Satellites to See…

This week ISS is absent from our skies, but you can see passes of the Tiangong 1 on Tuesday evening from 9:19 to 9:22 pm moving from west to south.  On Thursday morning from 12:30am to 12:33 am see the Russian Mayak satellite moving from north to northeast.  See Tiangong 1 again on Friday from 8:35 to 8:39 pm moving from west to east-southeast.  On Sunday see Mayak from 1:00 to 1:03 am moving from north to north-northwest.

Get out and see the solar eclipse – do so safely! Check out the evening planets and a satellite or two. See if you can find the elusive seagoat Capricornus in the early evening.  Happy summer stargazing and keep your eye on the sky!

Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.