News from the Martz/Kohl Observatory


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut
Martz/Kohl Board of Directors

Dancing with the Moon
This month brings us our smallest full moon, the longest day and shortest night of the year, and a chance to swap places with the Moon.

See the “Full Strawberry Moon” on the night of Friday, June 9, named so by Algonquin tribes who held it as a sign to gather the fruit. Full moons always rise at sunset. This full moon will be at its farthest point from Earth, making it the smallest appearing moon of the year. Look just to the left and see Saturn beside it. With binoculars or a backyard telescope the giant planet’s spectacular rings will be on full display.

The longest day of the year, the summer solstice, arrives on Wednesday, June 21. The sun will reach its northernmost position in the sky. As a result, sunrise on June 21 will begin our longest day of 15 hours, four minutes. It marks the middle of the astronomical summer season. The actual climatic seasons usually follow astronomical seasons by about 6 weeks.

Last quarter moons always rise around midnight. On Saturday, June 17 the moon’s orbit will position it ahead of the Earth in our path around the sun. The oddity of this is that at about 11:00 a.m. on the 17, Earth will reach the exact point in space occupied by the moon only about three and a half hours before. But don’t worry. By then the Moon will have moved along, too.

New Astronauts to be Announced
On Wednesday, June 7, NASA will announce its new astronaut candidates for America’s human spaceflight program. At 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, NASA will air the event live from Johnson Space Center in Houston on NASA Television and on their website,

If anyone is wondering whether the job of Astronaut is a popular occupation, NASA sorted through more than 18,300 applicants for its mere handful of new jobs. In August the astronaut candidates will kick off their two year training in spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, teamwork, the Russian language, and much more.

Human spacecraft is being developed in the U.S. today more than ever before, according to Future U.S. astronauts will no longer launch from the Russian spaceport in Kazakhstan, but once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made, commercial spacecraft. They will carry out exploration missions farther into space than ever before. They will also continue conducting research on the International Space Station. Deep space missions will launch on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built.

Visit and Join
The Martz/Kohl Observatory is an all-volunteer organization with membership open to any amateur astronomer, backyard stargazer and space enthusiast, for both adults and students. See for schedules of events, public nights, membership applications and to visit our gallery of astrophotography.

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

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.