August brings sights of Saturn, Jupiter and a meteor shower
Hawaii News | Skywatch

August brings sights of Saturn, Jupiter and a meteor shower

The celestial sphere which captures the ethereal fabric of our universe, it’s distant suns, moons, planets, and stars spin westward and will arrive at the exact same spot four minutes earlier each day, which is the reason why the night sky changes from season to season.

Filling the eastern horizon in the evening is the third of the four-star families, Manai­akalani, the Chiefly Fishing Line. Comprised of the Summer Triangle in the northeast and the trio of stars Keoe, Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp; Piraete‘a, Deneb in the constellation Cygnus the Swan; and Humu, Altair in the constellation, Aquilae the Eagle.

Piraete‘a, rises in the star compass house Manu Ko‘olau, and in 12,000 BC, it was our northern pole star.

When a star is located along the Earth’s axis of rotation it will remain in that same position and is known as a pole star. Over time, the earth’s axis of rotation gradually shifts in a process called “precession of the equinoxes.” A precession cycle takes 25,770 years, during which time the pole of the Earth travels a circular path across the celestial sphere.

In 14,000 AD, Vega will once again return to it’s pole star position. Piraete‘a is a variable star and relatively close, only a mere 25-light years from the sun. It is the fifth-brightest star in the night sky. Piraete‘a rises dead center of the star compass house Manu Ko‘olau, at the declination +45 degrees north. A variable bluish- white star, Piraete‘a, is the 19th-brightest star in the night sky. In 9,800 AD, Piraete‘a will be close to pole star position.

Humu, completes the trio of stars known as the Summer Triangle. Humu rises in the star compass house La Ko‘olau. However, in most oceanic cultures, it marks the direction Hikina, east on our star compass. In the Satawalese tradition, Humu is called Mailap. Stretching west from Satawal in the Caroline Islands and along the same latitude, through Indonesia, and onto the southern Arabian coastline, these coastal regions with a history for oceanic trade and commerce share at least 17 same stars on their celestial star compass. They all share the same east star, Humu, Mailap. This system of oceanic orientation is probably a shared system passed through interaction among neighboring colonies and contact through trade. The Summer Triangle is the dominant northeastern feature of Manaiakalani.

Maunakea discovery

The study of black holes in the universe has been an ongoing mystery. Black holes are born when massive stars die and collapse in on themselves. Within the suburbs of our galaxy, black holes are known to be at most 30 times the mass of the sun (stellar mass black holes). Black holes that reside in the centers of galaxies are millions of times the mass of the sun (super massive black holes). Black holes are thought to gain mass when they consume materials, thus a black hole could start off as a smaller stellar mass black hole and consume until it is a super massive black hole. However, the problem with this theory is that the “intermediate” mass black holes (those that are thousands of times the mass of the sun) were not addressed until recently.

An international team of astronomers, using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea to detect light echoes (light bouncing off of material surrounding a black hole in the center of a dwarf galaxy), has detected an intermediate mass black hole in the center of a distant dwarf galaxy. This information leads astronomers to determine that this black hole is about 10,000 times the mass of the sun. Further study and exploration of such black holes will yield valuable insight into black hole and galactic evolution. To learn more about this discovery, visit: gemini.edu/node/21201.

August sky

Every summer, the sky is decorated with beautiful Persieds meteor shower. This shower will be active from late July through mid- August, peaking on Aug. 12 at about 9 p.m. in Hawaii. The shooting stars, of this meteor shower, are the remnants of material left from the comet Swift-Tuttle which passed through the inner solar system in 1992 and left behind a cloud of dust and ice in the earth’s orbit. Every year, when the earth passes through this cloud of debris, the dust and ice fall through our atmosphere and burn, creating the shooting stars of the Persieds meteor shower. At its peak, we can expect 60-150 shooting stars an hour. They will mostly be traveling across the sky from east to west, roughly originating from the constellation of Perseus which will be rising in the east.

In August, Jupiter and Saturn will both be prominent in the early-evening sky. Jupiter will be one of the brightest objects while Saturn will be much fainter and to the east of Jupiter. These two planets are the largest in our solar system. Through a good telescope, you will be able to see Jupiter’s four largest moons and Saturn’s beautiful rings.

Situated between these giant gas planets is the stunning Milky Way galaxy. This band will stretch from Manu Kona to Manu Ko’olau, and will illuminate with the refracted light from the far- distant millions of stars. Sitting exactly between the planets Saturn and Jupiter and behind the shape of Pimoe is a region of the Milky Way commonly known as “the bulge.” When you look into the “the bulge” you are looking into the center region of our galaxy.

Throughout August, dawn will set in at about 5:15 a.m. and sunrise will be just after 6 a.m. In these early-morning hours, you will be able to observe the famous shape of Orion, kaheiheionakeiki, as it rises in Hikina. Toward Manu Malanai, the incredibly bright star ‘A‘a, Sirius, will be highly noticeable in the sky as the sun rises.

With careful observation, you will be able to see the faint planet Mercury as it rises just before the sun. The best day to view Mercury will be on Aug. 9, when it is at its greatest western elongation — it’s furthest position from the sun.

‘AUKAKE (AUGUST) SKIES AT 8… by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd


Chad Kalepa Baybayan (Kalepa.Baybayan@hawaii.edu) serves as navigator-inresidence and Emily Peavy (Emily.Peavy@hawaii.edu) as planetarium technician support facilitator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, a center for informal science education at the University of Hawaii at Hilo showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration.


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