ST. GEORGE – The St. George Astronomy Group, an informal association of amateur astronomers in Southwest Utah, will host a free “Virgin River Star Party” Friday from 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. or later. Telescopes will be set up around 8:30, and viewing will start at 9:30 p.m.
The viewing site is between LaVerkin and Virgin off of state Route 9. To get to the site, take state Route 9 east in LaVerkin, as if heading toward Zion National Park. Turn right off of the highway.
The exact location of the viewing site is 37°12’9.32″N, 113°13’54.26″W.
If skies are cloudy, the star party will be cancelled.
The St. George Astronomy Group is an astronomy advocacy organization with two missions: to reach out to the public through free star parties and other public events and to preserve the dark skies over Southern Utah through proper outdoor lighting.
The group is welcoming new members. See their website for details.
Upcoming celestial events
- July 19 – Full moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the “Full Buck Moon” because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the “Full Thunder Moon” and the “Full Hay Moon.”
- July 28-29 – Delta Aquarids meteor shower: The Delta Aquarids is an average shower resulting from debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. It can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from July 12 to Aug. 23 and is expected to peak this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. The second-quarter moon will block most of the fainter meteors this year. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius but can appear anywhere in the sky.
- Aug. 2 – New moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
- Aug. 12-13 – Perseids meteor shower: The Perseids is a favorite among many skywatchers and is one of the best meteor showers to observe, as it produces up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from July 17 to Aug. 24 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Aug. 12 and the morning of Aug. 13. The waxing moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for what should be an excellent early morning show. The Perseids is famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus but can appear anywhere in the sky.
- Aug. 16 – Mercury at greatest eastern elongation: The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 27.4 degrees from the sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. From Washington County, it will be a little difficult to observe, as it will appear no higher than 8 degrees above the horizon, according to in-the-sky.org. It will become visible at around 8:39 p.m. MST as the dusk sky fades, 8 degrees above the western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 1 hour and 3 minutes after the sun at 9:24 p.m.
- Aug. 18 – Full moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the “Full Sturgeon Moon,” according to seasky.org, because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the “Green Corn Moon” and the “Grain Moon.”
- Aug. 27 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter: A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. Even though it’s only a tenth the size, Venus will appear about 6 times brighter than Jupiter because Venus is enshrouded with highly reflective white clouds and is much closer to Earth. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.06 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the western sky just after sunset.
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