The Old Farmer’s Almanac tells us the “dog days” begin around July 3 and end August 11 this year. The “dog” they refer to is the dog star, Sirius, the brightest star in the sky after the sun. The ancient Greeks thought the star Sirius looked like the nose of the dog in the constellation Canis Major. Sirius rises just before the sun at this time of year, so you can’t see it in the summer sky.
Now is the perfect time to grab a lawn chair or a blanket, find some clear dark skies, and do a bit of star gazing. A few years ago, I was fortunate to take a summer professional development class that introduced me to the night sky. I am proud to say that if conditions are right, I can easily find the constellations of Sagittarius (looks like a teapot) and Scorpius (the scorpion). The red star Antares, the heart of Scorpius, and the bright star, Arcturus are also ones I like to point out to anyone who will listen. There are numerous star apps that will help orient you to the night sky too!
The International Space Station
I have always found it fascinating that you can see the International Space Station (ISS) at certain times during its orbit around the earth. The ISS is the third brightest object in the sky. At Spot the Station you can sign up to get an email or text alert when the ISS will be visible in your area. The alert gives you a time (usually early morning or just after sunset) and location for viewing.
August is also the time for the Perseid Meteor Shower, which peaks this year on the moonless night of August 12 through early morning of August 13. Get your fellow stargazers (AKA friends and family members) and head out away from city lights for the best viewing. Settle in just after dark, look in the northeast part of the sky, and BE PATIENT. This site will help with more information about this yearly occurrence.
And, while you wait for the shooting stars, use the time to tell those family stories that everyone likes, or just listen to the sounds of nature. You never know what you may hear.