Total solar eclipse to throw shade on U.S.

By Arnold Medalen

Nature’s most dramatic phenomenon—a total solar eclipse—occurs on Aug. 21, 2017. The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979, nearly four decades ago. The last solar eclipse with totality visible across the continental U.S. occurred 99 years ago.

Totality covers a 70-mile-wide path, making landfall on the northern Oregon coast at about 10:15 a.m. PDT and moving offshore in South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The longest duration of totality will be 2 minutes 40.2 seconds in southern Illinois, near Carbondale.

The beginning of the eclipse, called “first contact,” starts more than an hour before totality when the moon’s edge first appears to touch the sun’s edge. “Second contact” occurs when the moon just covers the sun, which lasts until the sun begins to uncover at “third contact.” At “fourth contact,” the last portion of the sun is uncovered, and the eclipse is over.

To see if your location will be in the path of totality, important safety information and much more, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

Don’t despair if you’re not in the path of totality. The continental U.S. will see at least a 55 percent eclipse, which is an experience you’ll always remember.

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Star calendar July 2017

Star calendar July 2017

1 Jul    Jupiter is less than 1 fist-width to the moon’s lower right at sunset. Spica is 3 finger-widths to the lower left. Arcturus is 2½ fist-widths above the moon.

3 Jul    Earth is at aphelion, 1.01668 AU from the sun.

5 Jul    At dusk, Antares is less than 1 fist-width to the moon’s lower right, and Saturn is a little more than 1 fist-width to the lower left.

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Star calendar June 2017

Star calendar June 2017

1 Jun     The first-quarter moon lies between magnitude 1.4 Regulus, 2 fist-widths to the right, and magnitude -2.2 Jupiter, 2½ fist-widths to the lower left.

2 Jun     Tonight Jupiter is 1 fist-width to the moon’s lower left.

3 Jun     The moon passes less than 1 finger-width to Jupiter’s upper left tonight. The bright star 1 fist-width to the moon’s lower left is magnitude 1.0 Spica.

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Star calendar May 2017

Star calendar May 2017

1 May     High in the west at dusk, Procyon is 1 fist-width to the waxing crescent moon’s lower left. Pollux is 1 fist-width to the upper right. Dimmer magnitude 1.93 Castor is 2 finger-widths to the right of Pollux.

3 May     Magnitude 1.4 Regulus is only 2 finger-widths to the left of the first-quarter moon at dusk.

7 May     The waxing gibbous moon is 1 finger-width to the lower left of magnitude -1.4 Jupiter. Magnitude 0.98 Spica is 4 finger-widths below the moon.

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Star Calendar April 2017

Star calendar April 2017

1 Apr     High in the west at dusk, Orion is to the lower left of the waxing crescent moon. Magnitude 0.5 Betelgeuse is 1 fist-width to the left while magnitude 0.85 Aldebaran is almost 1 fist-width to the lower right. Mercury, at its greatest elongation, 19 degrees east of the sun, sets more than 1½ hours after the sun and can be seen low in the west at evening twilight.

2 Apr     Betelgeuse is 1 fist-width below the moon at dusk.

3 Apr     High in the south at sunset, magnitude 0.46 Procyon is 1 fist-width to the first-quarter moon’s lower left. Magnitude 1.22 Pollux is the same distance to the upper left. The bright star 3½ fist-widths below the moon is magnitude -1.09 Sirius, the Dog Star.

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March 2017 star calendar

Star calendar March 2017

1 Mar     Low in the west at dusk, magnitude -4.2 Venus is 1½ fist-widths to the thin waxing crescent moon’s lower right. Magnitude 1.3 Mars is 2 finger-widths to the right.

3 Mar     The moon is at perigee, 369,000 kilometers away.

4 Mar     Magnitude 0.85 Aldebaran is ½ finger-width to the moon’s upper left high in the south at dusk. Later this evening the moon passes within 0.2 degrees of Aldebaran.

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January 2017 star calendar

Star calendar January 2017

1 Jan     Magnitude -4.3 Venus is 2 finger-widths to the waxing crescent moon’s upper left at dusk.

2 Jan     Tonight the moon lies between magnitude -4.3 Venus, less than 4 finger-widths to the lower right, and magnitude 0.9 Mars, less than 2 finger-widths to the upper left.

3 Jan     The moon slides past Mars this evening and forms a straight line with Venus low in the southwest at dusk. Mars is 4 finger-widths to the moon’s lower right, and Venus lies 1 fist-width beyond Mars.

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December 2016 star calendar

Star calendar 1–31 December 2016

2 Dec     At dusk, Venus is 3 finger-widths to the moon’s left.

3 Dec     Venus is 3 finger-widths below the moon tonight. Mars is 1½ fist-widths to the moon’s upper left. Altair, part of the Summer Triangle, is 2½ fist-widths to the moon’s upper right.

4 Dec     Mars is less than 3 finger-widths to the moon’s left. With binoculars, see if you can spot iota Capricorni, ½ finger-width to the right of Mars.

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November 2016 star calendar

Star calendar 1–30 November 2016

2 Nov     At dusk, Saturn is 1½ finger-widths below the moon and Venus is 3 finger-widths to the lower left. The equation of time is at its maximum for the year, 16.48 minutes.

5 Nov     Low in the south at dusk, Mars is 3 finger-widths to the moon’s lower left, and bright Altair is 2½ fist-widths above the moon.

6 Nov     Daylight saving time ends this morning at 0200. Turn your clocks back.

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October 2016 Star Calendar

Star calendar 1–31 October 2016

1 Oct     The moon sets early, making tonight great for stargazing. Look for Saturn low in the west at dusk, Mars 2 fist-widths to the upper left near Sagittarius and the Summer Triangle directly overhead.

3 Oct     At dusk, Venus is 2 finger-widths below the crescent moon. The pair sets within 2 hours of sunset.

4 Oct     The moon is at apogee, 63.7 Earth-radii (406,000 kilometers) away.

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