Sorry, it ain't gonna happen ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Normally in this column we discuss astronomical events that are coming up, however, today we are discussing something which is not going to happen--ever.

Many of you by this time have seen postings on various aspects of social media that on August 27th, there will be two moon sized objects in the sky, one the planet Mars, and the other the moon. Well, sorry to burst your expectative bubble, but in the vernacular of my people--it ain't gonna happen.

This particular hoax started in 2003 when Mars was at its closest points to Earth, an event that happens every two years. This time Mars was closer that it had been for a long time, or would be for a long time.

At that time Mars was a very large, bright red spot in the night sky and someone wrote that in a telescope at 75X, it would appear as large as the full moon. Then someone else reposted that, but for some reason left off the "75X" part thus saying that Mars would look as large as the full moon.

Well, as they say in cyberspace, the thing went viral and astronomers--myself included--have been trying to slay that dragon ever since, but it would seem without much success because every August since then it pops up again.

Okay, what can we expect with Mars and the moon on August 27th. Well, Mars will be just above the eastern horizon rising and will be best visible at about 5:00am MDT. It will look like a tiny, red spot. It is in essence on the other side of the Sun. Venus--also rising--will be to the lower right at about5 5:30 am MDT.

To see the moon, look west before 3:30am MDT because it is about to set below the horizon, which means Mars and the moon will not even be in the sky at the same time.

So, let's bury this thing, shall we because I don't want to have to do this again next year.

Now, back to our constellations, three this time.

Now is a great time to view the Summer Triangle which can be found almost directly overhead at about 9:00 pm MDT. Go outside with a blanket or reclining lawn chair, lay down with your feet pointing east and look up.

There you will see three bright stars making a triangle. They can be seen even in the light polluted skies of Denver, so you should have no problem finding them.

The highest one is Vega, the brightest star in Lyra, the Harp. Lyra is a small parallelogram of stars hanging below Vega. It is a blue giant star about 25 light years away.

Below and right is Altair in Aquila, the Eagle. Imagine an eagle with its wings outstretched and Altair is the eye.

On the left is Deneb, the tail star of Cygnus, the Swan. We can easily see the wings of the swan with its long neck extending out to between Vega and Lyra. If you are at a very dark-sky place you can see the Milky Way running down the length of Cygnus.

Right in the middle of the bird is a dark area astronomers call the "Great Rift." It does not mean there are no stars in that area, we just can't see them because they are blocked out by an area of dark dust and gas.

SKY WATCH: Full moon, Saturday, August 29.

NEXT WEEK: A great lunar eclipse in September and More astronomical blathering.

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