BELLVILLE — Math has never been a favorite subject of mine and in fact I might have eaten peas (which I hate with a great passion) when I was in college if it would have allowed me to skip all necessary math classes.
But since that wasn’t a viable option, I decided somehow that taking an astronomy class — which was offered as a replacement – would be a much easier time. Although that could not have been further from the truth, it ended up being one of my favorite classes ever.
Why? Not for math, I promise!
It’s the beauty of the sky’s celestial canopy added with the fanciful stories from ancient days that grabs my attention. The stories have been around almost as long as the star patterns themselves.
I am fairly certain that since the first night any stars shone in the dark blanket of night sky above, people were awestruck once they looked up and around them — not to mention all the random occurrences that happen in the skies above us.
So many scenes we may not witness but once, if ever, in a lifetime.
The strange. The unknown and unusual.
These things always grab people’s interests and the great expansive sky has captivated people of all creeds and ages throughout time. With that thought, I researched unusual sky happenings in north central Ohio.
Below are a couple excerpts of local news stories of sky activity.
“Henry A Enzor arrived from Pennsylvania with his parents in 1833, They settled in Butler Township of Richland Country, Ohio. While en route from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Henry’s parents witnessed the historical phenomenon of the ‘falling stars’ which occurred on the night of Nov. 13, 1833 when lights resembling stars were seen falling for three or four hours. The appearance was like a shower of stars.”
This account was taken from the History of Richland County, by Albert Baughman.
“The temperatures were just right last night for spotting the optical illusion known as light pillars. Although not as rare as spotting the northern lights in Ohio, these light pillars can only be seen in specific weather conditions.”
This account was from: Richland Source reports Light Pillars seen in town, by David Yoder, 2014.
These were the things about astronomy, or better stated, stargazing with which I fell in love. Stories have been created and shared through all time about the celestial bodies above us. And much like birding and other outdoor activities, star gazing has become a quite common outdoor activity.
Luckily for us in and around Richland County, we have some amazing viewing opportunities within a short distance.
If you want to really see and enjoy the celestial blanket above us, then head to the Warren Rupp Observatory (WRO). Located at Hidden Hollow Camp off of Possum Run Road, the observatory has one of the world’s largest amateur operated telescopes. Named “Big Blue,” it measures 36 inches in diameter.
Members of the Richland Astronomical Society operate the observatory and they open their doors to the public on the first Saturday of every month, March through November, at 9:30 p.m.
According to WRO, when the weather is good for viewing, the public will have the opportunity to view the skies above through Big Blue. If the weather is cloudy, visitors will be able to tour the observatory after the program.
In addition to Big Blue, members often have a variety of telescopes they are willing to share the view through. Members also encourage visitors to bring their own equipment, whether to use it or learn how to use it.
Members will be out and about our area in June with their telescopes and summer sky programs.
On Friday, June 10 they — and their stargazing gear — will be at the Star Party at Pleasant Hill Lake Park from 9:30 to 11 p.m., sharing views and instructionals with the public.
On Saturday, June 18, you can catch them in Galion at Brownella Cottage, where Bishop Brown taught Astronomy at the local high school. He used a special porch at his home for viewing. This is said to be a special event because the cottage is normally closed to the public. The program runs from 9:30 to 11 p.m.
The calendar of events from Charles Mill Lake Park denotes that they will be hosting a Starry Night Weekend and car cruise out to the Warren Rupp Observatory. This event is set for June 25 and 26.
Just in case you don’t make a habit of consulting sky calendars so you can plan a night “out,” let me share what celestial sights you will see by looking up after dark in our area of Ohio, as the Farmer’s Almanac states that June’s sky will be full of stars and bright planets, especially in the early morning hours.
Next week, starting on Wednesday night (June 8 to 13) we should be able to begin hunting for Leo, the constellation of the Lion. It is a prominent star pattern that crosses high in the southern sky and during this week of the month it is supposed to be especially noticeable in the night sky. At times, Leo can appear as a backwards question mark in the sky.
On Sunday, June 26, if you have a pair of binoculars and can get a view before the morning twilight gets too bright, you can see the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) cluster just north of Venus, which will be sitting in the east-northeast horizon. Despite the name, the star cluster contains more than 800 stars located about 410 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.
As it grows dark, the bright star Capella will be seen low in the northwestern sky. To its upper right, will be the stars clustered into a “W” shape to form Cassiopeia. This “W” shaped constellation will lie just below the north celestial pole, which is marked by the well known star Polaris.
High on the opposite side of Polaris, will be the easy to spot Big Dipper. If you follow the curve of the handle of this “saucepan,” you will come to one of the brightest stars in the night sky, Arcturus.
Another astronomy fun fact is that the Big Dipper is also part of the largest constellation in the northern sky, covering almost 1,280 square degrees in surface area and known as Ursa Major aka the Great Bear.
Not only are these star groupings fun things to seek in the night sky in the great outdoors, but the stories that go along with some of the constellations are enjoyable to read about.
As for planet appearances in June, Mars and Jupiter are expected to make an “eye-catching duo” in the morning, low in the east-southeast sky about 90 minutes before sunrise. Mars is said to be a yellow-orange hue and sits slightly to Jupiter’s lower left.
As June progresses, the two planets will drift apart, so that by the time July begins, the two planets will be roughly 20 degrees apart or easier to visualize, the size of two fists held together and outstretched from your body.
Planets to view by the third week of June will be Venus, who will be found 45 minutes before sunrise, just above the east-northeast horizon. Shortly after, Mercury will appear to the lower left of Venus. On the morning of June 26, early risers will be treated to an exquisite pairing of Venus with a slender crescent Moon. Venus will be about two degrees to the Moon’s lower right.
To end the month, on June 29, the planet Jupiter will be able to be seen in greater detail than normal with only a medium-sized telescope, so long as the atmospheric conditions are near perfect. Visibility of its dark belts and bright zones will steady as dawn brightens.
You may also notice that the western edge of the planet is slightly shadowed, making a gibbous Jupiter (similar to the appearance of a last quarter Moon).
Speaking of moons, I am going to make a 7:42 a.m. coffee date on Tuesday, June 14. That morning I plan to catch the glow of a “Strawberry Moon” or June’s full moon. Named after the berries that grow in the Northern Hemisphere around this time of the year, the Strawberry Moon of 2022 is also going to be a Supermoon, so it will appear to us larger and fuller than normal.
And the moon on June 29 (when Jupiter is more vivid), will be a New Moon and a Micromoon, meaning the skies will be prime for stargazing and pointing out planets since it will be a moonlight-free night.
One sky night I think everyone should try to have a date for will occur on Friday, June 24, when the rare event of the “naked-eye” planets (planets you can see without a telescope) appearing together in the morning sky, along with the crescent Moon.
The most interesting part? They will be lined up in their true order out from the sun: Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn!
According to astronomer Gary Seronik, “It’s been about 100 years since a similarly compact parade of planets graced our skies.”
To catch this historic event that will not occur again until 2041, you will need to be outside at approximately 4:20 a.m. (40 minutes before sunrise) and looking towards the southern and eastern sky.
The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.