Starwatch for August 2018

13 August 2018 Astronomy

Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National space Society, bringing you the August Starwatch for the WNTI listening area.

As you look up at the stars, you may see patterns that form constellations, or a twinkling of stars. The ancient skywatchers saw a constant and dependable cycling of the stars. This allowed them to use them as a celestial calendar, and as a type of surveyor device for aligning various structures.

As a calendric system, knowing the dates of the solstices and equinoxes set the time for planting and harvesting their crops –and for various rituals. As a surveyor’s tool, star alignments were used to set up a grid system to build cities, and to construct temples, pyramids, and other ceremonial structures.

The Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan is thought to have been aligned with the Pleiades star cluster. Roman towns were aligned with either the sunrise on summer or winter solstice.   A more striking example is evidence that Washington D.C. was originally dedicated to Virgo. As a result, there is an alignment of buildings with the stars of Regulus, Arcturus and Spica – framing the constellation of Virgo at sunset in August.

Let’s bring the heavens into our lives by observing the planets this month. Scanning the sky after sunset from southeast to south to southwest to west, we can see the lineup of four planets. Mars is in Capricornus, Saturn is in Sagittarius, Jupiter in Libra, and Venus in Virgo. The Sun hides Mercury.

So astronomy has and always will play a part in the lives of people in many civilizations. How does it play a part in your life?

Until our next Starwatch, don’t forget to check out, what’s up in the night sky!