Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy
Babe Among the Stars 19 June - 3 July 2008
Summer solstice (longest day/shortest night) falls on Saturday, 21 June this year in the UK. Last June Astronomy Picture of the Day published a fascinating image to explain the astronomy side of things. You've probably heard of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Pilgrims are drawn here on this special date for a very moving, spiritual experience. In the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming, Native Americans once built a 28-spoke wheel of stones with a recognised summer solstice sunrise alignment.
Many cultural and religious festivals take place all over the world around the time of the summer solstice, although usually such important celebrations are afforded their own name. Just a few of the many examples are: Alban Heflin (Druid), All-couples day (Greece), Estalia, Feast of St Aloysius (Patron Saint of youth, plague victims and AIDS sufferers and their carers), Feast of Epona (ancient Gaul), Feast of St John the Baptist, the German Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Sun Blessings, and the Anglo-Saxon Thingtide.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System. Even those who aren't interested in astronomy have probably heard of the Great Red Spot, the gigantic storm which has been raging for over 200 years. When I say gigantic, I mean it's larger than the diameter of the Earth! In 2006 a new storm, originally white, suddenly deepened in colour to the same hue as its older brother so was nicknamed 'Red Spot Jnr' before its more scientific name Oval BA was allotted. Just days ago astronomers announced that a third storm has turned from white to red. This newcomer is on the same plane as the original Great Red Spot, they will likely collide in August, giving astronomers an opportunity to witness a unique event. No-one knows whether the two storms will be repelled or if a giant convergence is on the cards. This is probably your last chance to see Jupiter's surface looking like this work of art, it's anybody's guess what the surface will look like later this year!
- 20 June: Jupiter 2° north of the Moon
- 21 June: Summer solstice (northern hemisphere)
- 25 June: See if you can spot Uranus 4° south of the Moon
- 01 July: Mars and Regulus (alpha Leo) will perform a double-act worth looking out for (you won't need any ocular aid) - they'll be less than a degree apart.
- 03 July: New Moon
Chat about your celestial observances at the h2g2