Geminid meteor shower

Geminid meteor shower, 2012 © Mike Lewinski

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Know what's up. The Morrison Planetarium's Skywatcher's Guide is a quarterly compendium of heavenly happenings.

July 2

The new Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, casting its shadow onto Earth and causing a total solar eclipse. Where do you have to go to see it? More information is in Highlights for this season.

First sighting of the crescent Moon after new marks the start of Dhul-Qi'dah, the eleventh month of the Moon-based Islamic calendar. It should be visible with effort from most of the US, Central America, and most of South America just after sunset on the 3rd.

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July 9

The Moon is at first quarter at 3:55 am PDT, about three hours before dawn and when the Moon is below the horizon. When the Moon finally rises at midday (around 1:44 pm PDT) the leading half of its Earth-facing side is lit directly by the Sun. By sunset, the Moon is high in the southern sky, and it sets after midnight, around 1:30 am on the morning of the 10th.

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July 16

This month's full Moon was known to indigenous Americans as the Buck Moon or Thunder Moon (Algonquin), the Crane Moon (Choctaw), and the Raspberry Moon (Ojibway). It rises at 8:41 pm, PDT, about 10 minutes after sunset, and follows a low arc across the sky during the night.

This full Moon passes partway into Earth's shadow, causing a partial lunar eclipse. This occurs when the Moon is below the horizon for the Americas, so it won't be visible from any part of the US. Observing circumstances for skywatchers who will see if from the other side of the world are in this season's Highlights.

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July 24

The Moon is at last quarter at 6:38 pm PDT, when it's below the horizon. When it rises at 12:51 am the next morning, the Moon is located against the stars of Cetus the Sea Monster, with its leading half immersed in darkness.

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July 31

The second new Moon in July—at least for U.S. time zones—occurs at 8:12 pm PDT. Sighting of the first visible crescent after new marks the start of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. This observation is always a challenge because the thin crescent is easily washed from view by the glow of sunset, but is possible on August 1 from southern Baja, much of Mexico and Central America, and coastal regions of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru (the rest of the world won't see the young Moon on August 2).

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August 7

The Moon is at first quarter at 10:31 am PDT. The Moon becomes visible 3½ hours later when it rises around 2 pm, and by sunset is located in the south-southwest.

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August 12

Peak of the Perseid meteor shower, accompanied by a waxing gibbous Moon whose light will interfere with all but the brightest meteors. For more information and viewing tips, see Highlights.

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August 15

Full Moon is at 5:29 am PDT. Indigenous Americans called August's full Moon the Sturgeon Moon, the Red Moon, and the Green Corn Moon (all from the Algonquin), also the Time of Freshness (Mohawk) and the Women's Moon (Choctaw).

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August 23

Last quarter Moon at 7:56 am PDT—shortly after sunrise, when the Moon is located high in the south.

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August 30

New Moon occurs at 3:37 am PDT. Sighting of the first visible crescent after new is not possible until the 31st and marks the start of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. This sighting is difficult, because the razor-thin crescent is easily overwhelmed by the glow of sunset.

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September 5

First quarter of this lunation occurs at 8:10 pm PDT, when the Moon is low in the southwest, slowly crossing from the stars of Libra the Scales into Scorpius the Scorpion.

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September 13

Full Moon is at 9:33 pm PDT. Traditional indigenous names for this Moon include the Cool Moon (Cheyenne), the Moose-Calling Moon (Micmac), and the Wild Rice Moon (Ojibway). The most enduring name comes from the Algonquin, who called it the Harvest Moon, which is now commonly applied to the full Moon nearest the September equinox. Find out why in Highlights.

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September 21

Last quarter Moon is at 7:41 pm PDT. When it rises at midnight, it's located on the border between Orion the Hunter and Gemini the Twins, and by dawn is very high in the southeast.

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September 23

September equinox for the northern hemisphere at 12:50 am PDT, marking the start of the fall season in the northern hemisphere and the start of spring in the southern hemisphere.

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September 28

New Moon occurs at 11:26 am PDT. Sighting of the first thin crescent after New marks the start of Safar, the second month in the Moon-based Islamic calendar. This challenging sighting is possible just after sunset on September 29 from the US, South America, Africa, and part of the Arabian Peninsula, including Mecca. The crescent Moon is visible from the rest of the world on the 30th.

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