Minnesota Skies

Keep in mind that we have a solar eclipse on August 21 this year and you need to prepare now. Here in Minnesota we will see a little more than 80% of Sun covered by Moon, but many folks will head south to states like Nebraska to see a total eclipse—one of nature’s awesome experiences. Eclipse2017 shows you the path of totality across the US as well as how to prepare for this rare event. The Bell Museum and College of Science and Engineering are teaming up to help you prep in person. Learn more about their Pre-Eclipse Block Party on August 13, one week before the big event!


July

July is the best time for Minnesotans to see constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius. If you have a clear view to the south (no trees, buildings etc.), look just above the southern horizon around 11 pm for a teapot shape that is part of the constellation of Sagittarius. The curved tail of Scorpius may be harder to spot because it is so low but the bright, ruddy star Antares will be visible. It is a double star, the bigger of the two being a red giant about 600 light years from us and emitting more than 380,000 times the energy of our sun.

July Highlight Notes
1 Bright Jupiter right of Moon 10 pm, SW
6 Saturn just below Moon 10 pm to 3 am
20 Bright Venus above thin crescent Moon 5:30 am, E
25 Mercury about 6 degrees below right of Moon 9 pm, Very low in W
Use binoculars
28 Bright Jupiter just below crescent Moon 9:30 pm, SW

August

In the early evening, bright Jupiter still gleams low in the west this month while Saturn shines a bit less brightly in the southern skies. Look for it next to Saturn on August 2 as listed in the highlights. For early risers, Venus beams in the morning skies around 5 am in the east.

Nearly overhead this month around 10 pm look for the bright star Vega (pronounced with a long e). Vega emits over 40 times our star’s energy and is only 25 light years away making it the second brightest star in the northern sky. If you are 25 years old, the light you see today from Vega left there when you were born. Currently Earth’s spin axis points to the star Polaris but since the Earth’s axis wobbles like a top, the spin axis will point nearly to Vega in about 12,000 years making it our future north star!

Schematic representation of precession in the case of the Earth; Vega becoming the new north star..

August Highlight Notes
1 Bright Jupiter right of Moon 9:30 pm, Low WSW
2 Saturn below left of Moon 10:30 pm, SSW
16 Bright star Aldebaran just above right of very thin crescent Moon 5 am, ESE
18 Bright Venus below left of crescent Moon 5 am, Low E
19 Bright Venus above very thin crescent Moon 5 am, Low E
24 Bright Jupiter left of thin crescent Moon 8:30 pm, Low WSW
25 Bright Jupiter below right of crescent Moon 8:30 pm, Low WSW


Resources

When viewing planets, stars or constellations in the night sky, it is helpful to use a sky map.

Minnesota Starwatch is another great resource for tracking the night sky.

Meet up with other stargazing enthusiasts via Twin Cities Sidewalk Astronomers, MN Astronomical Society & MN Institute for Astrophysics.