Gazing At Major Planets in Full Glory


Rishi Shah

The night skies of this month would still welcome sky-gazers to observe the major planets in full glory as they congregate and line-up across the eastern sky before day-break. Wonders of shimmering stars, conjuring constellations and other eccentric entities could also be astounded all over the heavens. The elusive planet Mercury could be manifested briefly in south-eastern sky before sun-up during the beginning of the month. It would be lost in solar glare later in the month. Planet Venus would be visible tersely before dawn in eastern sky. Mercury and Venus would be gliding through the constellation Taurus (bull) and Gemini (twins).  

Red Planet

The red planet Mars could be marveled after midnight in south-eastern sky till dawn. It would be moving through the southern section of constellation Aries (ram). Planet Jupiter would be applauded ostensibly from midnight till early morning before sunrise in southern sky in the confounding constellation Cetus (whale) sprawling serenely in the southern sector of constellation Pisces (fishes). 

The ringed planet Saturn could be sighted from late night in south-eastern sky till morning twilight in south-western sky. It would be spotted among the stars that are staying in eastern corner of the triangle-shaped constellation Capricornus (sea goat). The distant planet Uranus could be perceived in south-eastern sky before sunrise. It would be detected in the southern barren-alike expanse belonging to constellation Aries. It would be hovering above the star asterism depicting the imaginary head of comely constellation Cetus. 

The far-flung planet Neptune could be glimpsed in southern sky before day-start. It could be discerned in the southern segment of the constellation Pisces. The area of the sky around Cetus has been fashionably known as the sea or water, because it would contain a number of water-related constellations including Aquarius (water bearer), Eridanus (river) and Pisces. Alluring asteroid 387 Aquitania could be chased across broad constellation Ophiuchus (serpent bearer or Bhujak Dhari) from the late evening in south-eastern sky till after midnight in southern sky. Seen like a dot of light the asteroid would sink slowly towards western horizon.

The full moon (Guru Purnima) would befall on 13 July. It is also popularly nicknamed the buck full moon, because the male buck deer would commence to grow their new antlers during this time of year. This moon has been appreciated as the thunder moon or the hay moon. The moon would be lodged on the opposite side of the earth as the Sun and its face would be fully illuminated. This full moon would be recognized as the second of three super-moons for 2022. 

The moon would almost make its closest approach to the earth (at circa 0.0024 AU) and would look slightly larger and brighter than usual. It would be marching through stunning constellation Sagittarius (archer). The new moon would transpire on 28 July. It would be merely 0.0027 AU from earth. It would be migrating through constellation Gemini (twins).

The earth's annual orbit around the Sun would carry it to its furthest position from the Sun, which would be dubbed as aphelion and would be at a stretch of 1.0167 AU. The earth's separation from the Sun would vary by around three percent over the course of the year because its trajectory would be oval and would follow an ellipse-alike circuit. This variation has been very subtle because the earth's path around Sun would indicate in reality to be nearly circular. As the earth would complete one revolution around this trail each year, it would recede to its greatest interval from the Sun on roughly the same day every year. In 2022, this day would occur on 4 July. Technically speaking, on this day the Sun would seem smaller in the sky than at any other time of year and the earth would receive the least radiation from it. 

In practice, however, a three percent difference in the earth's span from the Sun would be negligible and barely noticeable.

Furthermore, the changes in our weather, for example between the summer and winter would be caused entirely by the tilt (scant 23.5 degrees) of the earth's axis of twirl, rather than by any alteration in its gap from the Sun. The location of the Sun at the moment of aphelion would be confirmed to be in constellation Gemini. One Astronomical Unit (AU) has been defined as the mean distance between the Sun and earth. It would approximately measure 150 million kilometers. Similarly, earth had come to its nearest place at fairly 0.9833 AU) to the Sun (perihelion) on 04 January 2022. The Sun had been traced then in constellation Sagittarius.

The average Delta Aquarids meteor shower could display up to twenty meteors per hour at its maximum on the night of 28 July till the morning of 29 July. The shower would peak close to new moon this year 2022 and so moonlight would present minimal interference for enjoying the fulgent flashes of shooting stars.  Avid sky-enthusiasts could relish this meteor shower, because the new moon during the meteor shower would provide tenebrous skies and consequently offer excellent condition for exhibiting spectacular show of the shower. Best viewing could be suggested from dark settings after midnight. Meteors would be apparently rushing out from the constellation Aquarius. The shower would run every year from 12 July to 23 August. 

Meteor Showers

Meteor showers arise when the earth would pass through streams of debris left behind in the wake of comets and asteroids. Over time, the grit-like pieces would distribute themselves along the length of the parent object's track around the Solar System. Streaking stars are generally witnessed whenever these minute particles would collide with earth's atmosphere, typically burning-up and disintegrating at an altitude of seventy to one hundred kilometers. 

The meteors associated with any particular shower would appear to be released from a common point (tagged radiant) on the sky. The meteor shower would practically obtain the nomenclature from the constellation from where they would exude. Uneasy uncertainties regarding the progenitor of the comet responsible for producing the Delta Aquariids has been persistently prevalent. It had been argued that the meteor shower had originated from the break-up of the Marsden and Kracht sun-grazing comets at their encounter with the Sun. 

However, it has been realized that the Marsden and Kracht groups have been both associated with Comet 96P/Machholz. Thus, it has been now been suspected that Delta Aquariids have originated from the short period comet 96P/Machholz. It would revolve around the Sun basically once in every 5.29 years. Comet Machholz had been identified by American astronomer Donald Machholz in 1986. 

The comet’s nucleus would be sparsely six kilometers across (probably bit punier than the object hypothesized to have triggered the demise of the dinosaurs possibly sixty-five million years ago).Their radiant in the sky from which the Delta Aquariids would evidently emanate would be residing restfully in the vicinity of the surreal star Delta Aquarii. The shower has retained its dramatic designation logically from this star and the constellation. 

Delta Aquarii with official moniker Skat would be the third most coruscating star in the constellation Aquarius. This star with its anticipated companion would be perhaps 113 light-years away. It would behave chemically as arcane A-type main-sequence star that has been generating energy through the nuclear fusion of hydrogen at its core. This star would demonstrate the double of Sun's mass and its radius would be paltry three times bigger than that of Sun. It has been emitting twenty-six times the Sun’s luminosity at an effective temperature of whooping 8700 degrees Celsius. 

White Hued Glow

The heat would bestow it the characteristic white-hued glow of an A-type star allegedly accompanied with high rate of rotation. Skat would be floating over strangely scintillating star Fomalhaut (fish’s mouth) which would be relaxing in the charming constellation Piscis Austrinus (Southern Fish or Yam Masta). Splendid stars Markab and Sheat inhabiting the western flank of the famed square of the constellation Pegasus (winged horse) would be staring at Skat directly below. Fomalhaut, Markab and Sheat would be sheer 25, 133 and 196 light-years away respectively.

(Dr. Shah is an academician at NAST and Patron of NASO) 

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