June 29, 2006: This drives astronomers crazy. Every summer, on the one night when millions of Americans are guaranteed to be outside at nightfall, necks craned upward watching the sky, almost no one pays attention to the heavens. It's all fireworks, fireworks, fireworks. Stars and planets don't stand a chance.
But this 4th of July is different.
At sunset, just as the fireworks are about to begin, the Moon and Jupiter will pop out of the twilight side-by-side: sky map. These are the brightest objects in the night sky, easily beaming through the flash and smoke of a fireworks display.
Sidewalk astronomers, deploy your telescopes! Here is a wonderful opportunity to show off Jupiter's moons, the Great Red Spot, lunar craters and mountain ranges, and the long creeping shadows at the Moon's day-night divide. Bonus: Point your telescope at blank sky and wait for some fireworks. A good starburst at 25x magnification can be very entertaining.
And don't forget to watch out for spaceships.
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