Skywatch for July 2014: Summer Nights

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The planet show we have been enjoying over the last several months fades a bit for us in July. Yet good evening views of Mars and Saturn will be possible and the morning eastern sky will feature our two innermost planets, Venus and Mercury.

Mars may be found in the southwestern sky as soon as it gets dark all month. On July 1st it will be only 5 degrees (above and right) from Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Its reddish-orange color will make a nice visual contrast with the blue-white color of this star. Only July 5th, the 1st Quarter Moon will be seen between Mars and Spica; being only one degree from Mars! Mars and Spica, due to Mars’s orbital motion, will appear to draw closer to each other all month. Indeed, they will be only one degree apart on July 12th! Thereafter, Mars will move past Spica throughout the month.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland's Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Saturn may be found east – or to the left – of Mars. They will appear to draw closer to each other too, throughout the month, dropping from 28 degrees of separation down to just 12 degrees. In late August they will be only 4 degrees apart from each other —— something to look forward to seeing then.

Mercury makes a brief appearance in the pre-dawn sky of July and reaches greatest eastern elongation angle from the Sun on the morning of July 12th. What this means is that it will be about 21 degrees in front of the Sun and about 7 degrees above the east-northeast horizon, 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise. Mercury will also be just to the lower left of brighter Venus then, which will be a guide to finding the dimmer Mercury. We will, however, need a clear, un-obstructed view down to the horizon to see Mercury since it remains quite low and it will be seen in a sky already getting lit-up by approaching dawn.

Summer nights provide comfortable temperatures for viewing, but because summer day lengths are greater, it does not get completely dark until nearly 9:30 pm during July. Moreover, the warm summer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, and often does. It is what we call humidity. And humidity can sometimes give us hazy skies, which can muffle the lights of stars we seek. Despite this, when it is clear, and we can avoid street and house lights around us, the summer Milky Way spread out before us in regal splendor as we look toward the center of it in July.

Beginning due south between Scorpius and Sagittarius, the Milky Way appears to arch up toward the zenith, through Aquila the Eagle, past Cygnus the swan, and then descends toward the northeast through Cassiopeia the Queen, and on to Perseus the hero, and down to the northeast horizon.

Every summer since I was 10, I have looked at the Milky Way through binoculars, slowly tracing the path I just described, never tiring of the splendid, wide field view I see. Countless more stars and glowing gases than can be seen with the unaided eye are revealed, giving just a hint of the the vastness of space. Try it yourselves. You will be hooked!

Moon phases: 1st quarter/July 5; Full/July 12; Lat Quarter/ July 18; New/July 26.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Why We Love Bird Dogs

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In this installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andrew McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, is back in the field, but this time with his new bird dog Boone. In a case of “this dog can definitely hunt,” Andrew sets Boone off to show off his extraordinary hunting skills.

This video is approximately three minutes. Gibson Anthony is the videographer.

Return of Movies in the Park: Summer of Stars, Under the Stars

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The Chestertown Recreation Commission announces the beginning of a Summer of Stars …under the stars, with the return of its program of Movies in the Park.

This Friday June 20 will be the opening night of a season of family friendly films to be shown outdoors in downtown Chestertown with the classic, “The Princess Bride”.

The movies will be shown at the Foot of High Street on the Custom House lawn.

“The Princess Bride”, directed by Rob Reiner in 1987 and became an instant classic with its tale of brave Westley and his quest to save his Princess Buttercup from the clutches of the Evil Prince Humperdick. One of the most quotable and beloved films to come out of the decade the film stars Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn.

All Shows start at dusk, (approximately 8:15 – 8:30) and are free to the public.

The CRC will be on hand most nights to offer popcorn. Bring blankets and lawn chairs, (low seated are preferred)
The rest of the summer schedule of movies will be on alternating Fridays, beginning with following week, June 27 with another 80’s classic, “The Goonies”.

Further screenings include July 11- The Karate Kid, (1984), July 25th “The Muppet Movie”, (1979), August 8- Space Jam, Aug 22- TBD and September 5- “The Lego Movie” and a special Halloween showing of “Ghostbusters“ in October.

Rain dates will be the following Friday evenings.

The Chestertown Recreation Commission is a official branch of the Mayor & Council’s office charged with improving recreational opportunities, programming and facilities in the town. Anyone interested in being involved can reach Bill Arrowood, chair, at chestertownrec@yahoo.com for more updates, residents are encouraged to check the CRC’s Facebook page.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Winter Wheat with Andrew McCown

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Winter wheat is a powerhouse producer for local Eastern Shore farmers, but the story doesn’t stop there. As Echo Hill Outdoor School’s Andrew McCown points out in the latest edition of Cool Outdoor Stuff, this remarkably resilient crop plays many roles in the life of the Shore and the businesses that depend on it.

This video is approximately three minutes long.

Videography by Gibson Anthony 

Adkins Takes Big Step with New Facility

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It took me about 30 seconds to remember why I love the Adkins Arboretum.  As I walked across the new entry bridge, I stopped twice for large bullfrogs, once when a large deer splashed through the marsh, and another three times to listen to the “plonks, poinks” and “BRAAPS” of other native frogs. So much life is down below that bridge! I was half tempted to go grab my boots and climb down in there.

But I was there to tell the story of their campaign, not to frolic with marsh creatures.

Delmarva’s treasured living museum, the Adkins Arboretum, kickstarted their capital campaign last week with a goal to raise a final $3,000,000 to complete their facility upgrade. As the only outdoor center on Delmarva to highlight our region’s unique ecosystem, the organization intends to raise 60% of the construction costs needed before putting a shovel in the ground in the fall of 2015. Led by Peter Steifel’s $1 million gift, over 50 organizations and foundations have joined hundreds of other donors in raising $4,500,000 so far.

The opportunity is great. With only one tiny multi-purpose room to serve as a gallery, classroom, seminar and conference room, the organization has managed to serve thousands of children and adults each year with opportunities to experience Delmarva’s unique natural heritage.  New infrastructure including a gallery, an open air classroom and a new multi-purpose pavilion will increase student participation in outdoor education by 500%. And that’s critical, in a time of heightened emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) in our region’s school districts.

The new space will allow the Arboretum’s extensive collection of books and publications to come out of a storage facility on Kent Island and be placed in the public eye – accessible to visitors and scholars. An outdoor classroom and open pavilion with seating for 200 will extend the organization’s ability to provide multiple offerings at one time. From musical performances to lectures, the new space will inspire with broad views, open access and handsome natural materials. The new gallery will allow for more art, more accessible to all.

Architect Andrew Hertig of Lake/Flato Architects presented his architectural designs on Thursday to a crowd of some 3 dozen supporters gathered in the small classroom that is the Arboretum’s entire public space at present. Describing the newly revised plans for gallery space, walkway, classroom and gardens, Hertig said that the re-design keeps all the functionality while addressing the new economy. His designs are inspired by nature and showcase the special place that is Adkins Arboretum.

The new facility will enable this organization to continue to nurture the environmental, cultural and social health of the region, connecting us all with wild Delmarva. From conservation landscaping seminars to nature walks, community lectures, art and native plant education, Adkins Arboretum has proven to be a Mid-Atlantic treasure. This is a cause to support.

You can learn more about the Arboretum here, see upcoming events and programs here, and support the campaign to build this living legacy for our community here.

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Caroline Pavilion

The Caroline Pavilion

 

The Marion Price Art Gallery

The Marion Price Art Gallery

Phase 1 Building Program

 

 

Skywatch for June 2014: Summer Planets

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After oppositions for Mars in April and for Saturn in May, both planets remain prominent sky objects for sky-watchers to enjoy throughout June.  Jupiter, on the other hand, having been brilliant all through the winter and spring, is now moving so close to the Sun that views of it can only be had for a few hours after sunset in the western sky.  The waxing crescent Moon tracking through Cancer, Leo, and Virgo during the first week of June points the way to finding Mars, as it will appear just below the Red planet on June 7th, but in waxing gibbous phase by that time.  Mars is at magnitude –0.5 on June 1st but fades to 0.0 by June 30th.  The distance between us and Mars grows steadily as we move in our respective orbits during the month.  Still telescopic views of Mars will remain good all month.  Mars is currently among the stars of Virgo in the southern sky.

Saturn is at 0.3 magnitude and among the dim stars of Libra all month and is still a great telescopic object for sky-watchers lucky enough to have a scope.  Rings, surface markings, and orbiting moons add to the view of the planet.  Look in the southern evening sky, east or left of Virgo and Mars, for it, especially on June 10th when the nearly Full Moon passes just below the ringed planet.

The Moon also directs our eyes to Venus, though in truth Venus is always easy because of its ever-present brightness.  Now Venus is at –3.9 magnitude.  On June 24th, the very thin waning crescent Moon may be seen just right of Venus and just below the Pleiades star cluster in the east sky 45 to 60 minutes before the Sun rises.

June is not a good month for meteor observers; there are no major meteor showers in June.  But one minor shower may be worth a look.  The Bootids went dormant after a great show in 1927 but re-emerged in 1998 with 90 meteors spotted per hour.  In 2004 another big display of meteors occurred.  Astronomers do not expect another big display this year, but the peak night, June 27th, coincides with the New Moon —- the best Moon phase for seeing meteors.  So we might give it a try looking northwest between 1 am and dawn on the 27th of June.

Summer Solstice arrives on June 21st at 6:51 am EDT.  The Sun then for us in Maryland will be at its highest for the year, at 73 1/2 degrees above the southern horizon at noon.  Day length is at its longest and night-time at its shortest at this time of year.  Enjoy the extra day light even though the night sky does not come to glory until a much later hour.  Full Moon for June is going to be on June 13th.

Diagram of the Earth's seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.

Diagram of the Earth’s seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.

Sail With Sultana During Tea Party Weekend

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Gunston Trip, May 21 - 25, 2012 014Visit the historic port of Chestertown, Maryland this weekend to sail on the schooner SULTANA during the “Chestertown Tea Party Festival.” This annual event commemorates Chestertown’s protest of British Tea Taxes in 1774. As local legend has it, citizens of this colonial port boarded the Brigantine Geddes and dumped its cargo into the Chester River. During the festival the schooner SULTANA will be in port for a host of public sails. Tickets are still available for sails on both Saturday and Sunday of the weekend with each outing capturing a unique facet of the festival.

SULTANA’s two-hour public sails are a great way to sail the Chester River onboard a traditional schooner. Passengers are encouraged to help raise the sails, steer using SULTANA’s seven-foot long tiller, and explore the authentically reproduced crew’s quarters below-decks.

Beginning on Saturday, the schooner will depart from the town dock at 10:00am, returning to port at the perfect time for passengers to get up close and personal for the popular reenactment of the storming of the Geddes and the tossing of the tea into the river. Saturday afternoon’s sail at 4:30 offers festivalgoers a great end to a full day, returning to the dock to a quiet and relaxed Chestertown.

On Sunday, the Festival is reinvented with the popular Tea Party Raft Race and vendors in Wilmer Park. Schooner SULTANA will sail at 11:00am and 2:00pm, with the afternoon sail offering a unique view of the hilarity of the raft race.

Advance reservations are recommended for all sails and can be completed online or by contacting the Sultana Education Foundation office at 410-778-5954. Online registration is available until Midnight of the preceding day of the program. If available, tickets may be purchased at the dock before the sail. For more information or reservations, please visit www.sultanaeducation.org.

Nina and Pinta Arrive at St.Michaels

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Nina2St.Michaels—The Nina and Pinta have safely arrived in St. Michaels, MD and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. 

The replicas of two of Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Niña and Pinta, are docking at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) through May 18, with boarding opportunities available to the public beginning Saturday, May 10. 

The ships are operated by the Columbus Foundation out of the British Virgin Islands.

The Niña is an exact replica and was built completely by hand and without the use of power tools before her 1991 launch. The Pinta, an authentic reproduction of Christopher Columbus’ ship, was launched in 2005 in Valenca, Brazil. She is a larger version of the archetypal caravel and offers larger deck space for walk-aboard tours, private parties, and charters.

Both ships tour together as a sailing museum dedicated to educating the public and school children. Onboard exhibits highlight the history of the Age of Discovery, navigation of the era, how the ships were built, and a taste of what life was like more than 500 years ago.

Visitors are invited to board the ships between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily for unscheduled, self-guided tours. Tickets include tours of both ships and will be available upon boarding at $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for students 5–16, with children 4 and under free. Museum admission is an additional cost for non-CBMM members.

Teachers or organizations wishing to schedule 30-minute guided tours with groups of 15 or more must make advanced registrations by contacting the Columbia Foundation directly at columfnd1492@gmail.comor 787-672-2152.

For more information about the Niña and Pinta, visit www.thenina.com. For more information about CBMM, visit www.cbmm.org or call 410-745-2916.

 

Explore the Chesapeake Series begins at CBMM June 26

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Beginning June 26, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St. Michaels, MD introduces its Explore the Chesapeake Series, an adult education program featuring half-day excursions of the Eastern Shore that include hands-on, behind-the-scenes experiences, historic tours, and on-the-water adventures through September. Advanced registration is needed for all programs, as participation is limited.

“These trips offer an intimate introduction for area newcomers, and locals wanting to reconnect with the people and landscapes that make the Chesapeake region unique,” said CBMM’s Director of Education Kate Livie. “It’s like a field trip for adults. Pack a lunch, bring your camera, and spend a day experiencing the incredible, scenic places off the beaten path on the Eastern Shore.”

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On Thursday, June 26 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., CBMM’s Miles River Paddle & Island Exploration with the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy takes participants to the Miles River’s Rauss Island, a private haven for box turtles, osprey, nesting heron, and other Chesapeake wildlife. Participants must be physically able to maneuver into and out of a kayak with ease. The cost is $45 per person with a kayak provided, or $30 when you bring your own. A boxed lunch is available for an additional $10 per person, with participants offered to bring their own lunches.

On Friday, June 27 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., CBMM and Morgan State University Historic Preservation Program Chair Dale Glenwood Green will lead a tour of Easton’s “The Hill” neighborhood, exploring the history and architecture of one of the oldest African American communities in the United States. Lunch at the historic Asbury United Methodist Church will be followed by a hands-on afternoon of archaeology fieldwork, where ongoing digs are uncovering how early African Americans lived as a community on The Hill. The cost is $45 per participant and includes lunch.

On Friday, August 8 from 9 a.m.-12noon, participants are invited for a kayak paddle on King’s Creek in Kingston, MD with the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy’s Choptank Riverkeeper Drew Koslow. A survey conducted by the Smithsonian Institution identified King’s Creek as having one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most important marsh systems, full of spawning fish, nesting waterfowl, and diverse vegetation. Koslow will guide participants as they explore the marshes and coves. Participants must be able to physically maneuver into and out of a kayak with ease. The cost is $30 per person with a kayak provided, or $20 per person when you bring your own.

On Thursday, September 4, from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., the Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino will lead participants on a paddle through the marshes of Chicone Creek, a major tributary to the Nanticoke River near the historic town of Vienna, MD. Chicone was once home to a flourishing Nanticoke Indian community and became one of the first Indian reservations in the United States. The creek contains some of the most pristine marsh habitat on the East Coast. After paddling, and eating a boxed lunch, the group will tour the on-site Handsell House, an 18th century dwelling and a meticulously re-created Nanticoke longhouse. Participants must be able to physically maneuver into and out of a kayak with ease. The cost is $45 per person with a kayak provided. A boxed lunch is available for an additional $10 per person, with participants offered to bring their own lunch.

Participants must provide their own transportation, with meeting locations determined closer to the date of the program. To pre-register for an Explore the Chesapeake program, contact CBMM’s Education Assistant Helen Van Fleet at 410-745-4941. For more information, visit www.cbmm.org or call 410-745-2916.

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