Welcome back to the monthly article on astronomy, brought to you by the Administaff Observatory in Humble ISD and The Tribune Newpapers. The dog days of summer are upon us, which sadly means nighttime astronomy can’t start until after 8:30 p.m.  But there are still many wonders to behold. There are no major events in the next month.  If you can get away from lights, meteors can be seen any night. Venus, Mars, and Saturn are all visible in the evening sky. And every month, available to us all, is the moon as she marches through her perpetual phases. Do you own a pair of binoculars?  Maybe you have them for bird watching or sight seeing? They are a great instrument for astronomy too. There are hundreds of objects that you can see with a pair of 7 x 35 or 10 x 50 binoculars. Some of the most spectacular objects are best seen in binoculars: the Pleiades, the Hyades, the Adromeda Galaxy. Although you have to get up early in the morning to see it now, Jupiter, the king of the planets is actually a beautiful binocular object. If you mount your binoculars on a tripod or other steady surface, you can see Jupiter as a disk, and even see its four large moons. Most of the objects that are visible now are small in binoculars, but you can see them, and you can tell that they are not stars, but something special. There are great open clusters of stars, the highlight being the Beehive Cluster in the constellation Cancer. There are also globular clusters of millions of stars (looking like giant snowballs), such as M-4 in Scorpius. All you need is a good star chart, and patience as you navigate through the sky. This month, we would also  like to explore why we have seasons. Our seasons change over the course of a year, and our orbit around the sun also takes a year, so there is probably a connection. There is. As we orbit our star, we are moving in an ellipse not a circle. This means that some of the time we are closer to the sun and some times we are farther away. This seems like a likely suspect. But in fact, the seasons are backwards in the northern hemisphere. We are closest to the sun in the winter when it is the coldest.  Our seasons are really caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation. In the winter the north pole points  towards the sun, and in the summer it points away. The south pole does the opposite.  When your pole is pointing towards the sun, the same amount of light covers less area, so it is more intense, and the hemisphere is warmer. The Administaff Observatory in Humble ISD has public viewing nights once each month. The next one is Friday, July 9, from 8:30 to 10 p.m.  We hope you will join us. If the weather cooperates, we will be observing celestial wonders through the telescopes and local astronomers will be available to answer your questions. The observatory is located next to Jack Fields Elementary in Humble; please park in the parking lot in front of the school. For more information, visit www.humble.k12.tx.us/observatory.htm. – Dr. Aaron B. Clevenson Clevenson is the Lead Astronomer at the Administaff Observatory in Humble

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