Jun 15

June Star Parties in Kanab!

Kanab’s nonprofit Stellar Vista Observatory (SVO) has scheduled four occasions during the month of June, 2024, in its ongoing series of free public star parties and solar science observing opportunities. SVO’s June programs will enable residents and visitors in southern Utah to witness, through the eyepiece of its telescopes, the stunning beauty of the night sky and the awesome power of our sun. The program include two daytime, one evening, and one early morning event.

Two daytime observations of the life giving presence of our star, the sun, which powers all known atmospheric and biological processes on earth, are set to take place just outside Kanab City Library beginning at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 15, and again at the same time on Saturday, June 22. SVO’s specially designed 70 mm Coronado Double Stack Solar Telescope enables safe, direct observation of the activity on and above the surface of the sun in startling detail. Bring your curiosity and questions, and take home the memory of seeing with your own eyes the intense power of the nuclear fusion reaction turning hydrogen into helium and powering our entire solar system!

Two free celestial observing events open to the public are also coming your way this month! On Friday, June 21, SVO will celebrate the Summer Solstice with a Full Moon Party at the Jackson Flat Reservoir Boat Launch parking area, just south of Kanab. This event will feature eye-popping telescopic and binocular views of the moon in fine detail, beginning at 9:00 pm, just before the full moon rises in the northeastern sky at 9:14 pm, MDT.

Hmmm, but wait a minute. Don’t the moon and sun always rise in the east? The answer is no, not always!

In a phenomenon originally observed by indigenous peoples around the world and incorporated into the architecture of their temples and cities, the exact location where the ecliptic intersects with the horizon, actually swings north and south over the course of the year, due to the 23 degree tilt of earth’s axis of rotation. (See NASA illustration of Earth’s axial tilt.)

The ecliptic is the name given to the path that the moon and sun appear to travel across the sky. At the time of the summer solstice, June 21, the sun’s path along it travels high overhead during daytime, rising 59 degrees ENE, and setting 301 degrees WNW, well north of 90 degrees East and 270 degrees West. But the moon traces a different trajectory, low across the southern sky at night on the same date, rising at 127 degrees SE, and setting at 230 degrees SW, well south of the true East/West cardinal directions.

Earth’s revolution around the sun while tilted on its axis generates the slow but constant swing of the ecliptic in relation to the equator and the four cardinal directions, creating all the seasonal changes that occur from winter to summer and back again. Come out and see for yourself how far south of due east the moon rises on the night of this year’s summer solstice!

SVO’s second public observing event scheduled for the month of June also takes place at the Jackson Flat Reservoir boat launch parking area, but in the early morning hours on Saturday, June 29, from 4:30 am to 6:00 am. Early risers on that day will see a lovely naked eye alignment of the planets Saturn, Mars and Jupiter with the moon, all in a row along the ecliptic. Through the eyepiece in early twilight, we’ll observe their distinctive features and differences, and even spot our solar system’s most distant planet, Neptune, nearly 2.8 billion miles away!

If you’re wondering why this event is being held so early, it’s because that’s the best and most convenient time this year when all four of these planets and the moon will be visible in this configuration.

SVO offers free public star parties in and around Kanab throughout the year. Most occur in the evening but at least once a year SVO features a pre-dawn event for those who love the quiet peace and ethereal beauty of the early morning hours. For 2024, we’ve scheduled two! The next is on August 5, when SVO’s amateur astronomers will be out early once again, inviting you to catch Mars, Jupiter and the red giant star Aldebaran as they form a lovely triangle in the morning sky. Everyone is welcome to join the fun!

For more information about the activities of Kanab’s Stellar Vista Observatory, please visit: https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/. If the sky looks cloudy, check our website and Facebook page for weather related changes.

About the Author:

Comments are closed.