July Skies Offer Special Events

Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut
Martz/Kohl Board of Directors

The Next Fireworks
The month of July will offer sky watchers an interesting sight. The July Fourth fireworks will not be the only sky show this month.

On the night of Sunday, July 29, and the morning of Monday, July 30, the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower promises to produce up to 20 meteors every hour at its peak. The brilliant “shooting stars” are actually debris – sand, rocks and dust – left behind by two comets, Marsden and Kracht. The crescent moon will set by midnight, so dark skies should be perfect for an early morning show. Find a location with dark skies after midnight for the best viewing.

The comets Marsden and Kracht that gave birth to the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower are unusual. They lead a very unusual life, for comest, that is. They are members of a class of comets called “Sun-grazers.” They cruise through the solar sytem on orbits that take them far out among the planets, then back on a steep, downward dive that takes them extremely close to the sun’s blisteringly hot surface.

Marsden and Kracht could get themselves boiled away in the heat or get torn apart by the powerful gravity when orbiting close to the sun. Any trip past the sun, which can be as often as once every five years or more (there are actually many comets in this group, all with differing but sun-grazing orbits) has the potential to produce extremely bright comets as well as meteor showers as new debris boils off their surfaces. Some of this group eventually disappear. They simply boil away to nothing or take a final plunge right into the sun itself.

Don’t miss the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower on July 29 and 30.

Solar Eclipse Invitation
The Martz/Kohl Observatory is planning a daytime experience to see the August 21 solar eclipse. Astronomers who don’t like to stay up late, and there are a few, always have one star to look at, the closest one of all, our sun. And this year’s eclipse will offer a special opportunity to study the sun’s glowing atmosphere as the moon passes in front of it while we sit inside the moon’s shadow as it falls on the earth.

Martz/Kohl has obtained specially designed “Eclipse Glasses” which will be available for guests in safe viewing of the eclipse event. All local residents are invited to the observatory at 176 Robin Hill Road in Frewsburg for a unique daytime star party to watch the eclipse and learn more about this rare and fascinating occurrence.

All observers should be aware that looking directly at the sun, even during a partial or full eclipse, without specially designed safety eyewear can be extremely dangerous.

More details about this event will be published in this column next month.
July 9 – Full Moon. The moon will be located on the opposite side of the earth as the sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 04:07 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.

July 23 – New Moon. The moon will located on the same side of the earth as the sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 09:46 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

For a deeper look at the night sky, planets, stars and the entire universe, visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory online at martzobservatory.org, check the schedule of events and visit in person. Thank you to Hall and Laury Opticians for sponsoring these Martz/Kohl column.