Summer Stars 2011

Night stars

Summer stars viewing guide from University astronomer

Novice star gazers will find dazzling sights in the summer skies during the next few months, including the Summer Solstice, the Aphelion and brilliant meteor showers.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren, a physics professor and astronomer at the University of Redlands, encourages families to put sky watching on their summer activity list. He is the author of “Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks.”

Upcoming summer events include the Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower, which can produce about 20 meteors per hour at its peak, with viewing opportunities through August 18. The radiant point for this shower, the point in the sky from which all meteors will appear to be coming from, will be in the constellation Aquarius.

“To see a meteor shower, families need no equipment more complicated than lawn chairs. Just find a dark place away from street lights, lie down, and look up,” said Nordgren.

The Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the most exciting showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak, which will occur this year on August 13 and 14, with less dramatic shows through August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus.

 Nordgren has served as an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory and Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he helped build a new type of telescope to directly observe the size and shape of such household stars as Pollux and Polaris (the North Star). He is a member of the National Park Service Night Sky Team working to protect our park's dark skies and promote astronomy education.

Nordgren was part of a team of seven astronomers and artists who converted the “Spirit” and “Opportunity” Mars Rover camera calibration targets into functioning sundials and saw them land safely in Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum.

This November will see a new sundial headed for Mars that Nordgren helped design when NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Rover “Curiosity” launches from Florida on its way to the red planet.

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