Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

This column was provided by San Benito County resident and amateur astronomer David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

Last month we learned some simple facts about our Solar System and beyond. Most of these interesting facts go unknown to the average person. Unless, of course, you happen to run into my cousin Pat who teaches astronomy at Rice University.

I would like to say that everything he knows about our subject he learned from me, but I’m afraid he might read this column, so I’m going to have to say “No.” So don’t make any bets with him, for there is a good chance he will answer any and all questions you may throw his way. Here I need to go back in time again to prove my point.

Let’s go back a few years, say the ’80s. I was on flight 245 headed for San Jose. It was around 10 p.m. I was sitting in the middle seat with an elderly, sweet lady sitting on the aisle seat to my left. On the window seat on my right sits a young man who started talking the minute his butt hit the seat. My little lady and I just looked at each other and at the same time rolled our eyes. Over a period of two hours he must have told us his whole life story, and then some. Never at any time did he give us a chance to jump in there and maybe say a little about ourselves and our lives. I’d like to say he was interesting, but that’s not going to happen.

As time goes on, my young friend looks outside his window for a minute or so then turns to me and says, “See that bright object in the sky?” I confirmed that I saw it. This happened to be the first words that came out of my mouth in a while.

He goes on and says to my lady friend and I, “I’ll give either of you $50 if you can give me the name of that point of light.”

I gave the lady first chance to answer. She had no idea.

She said, “Darn, I could have used the money.”

Then he said, “How about you sir?”

He calls me “sir” because he never asked me for my name the whole time.

I took a clear look out the window, dragging my response out as long as I could, and finally said, “Let’s see, it is August, the middle of the planets up this month are Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter.”

My little friend was starting to look a little nervous, rightfully so, for I knew exactly what was that object. You should have seen the look on his face when I gave him the correct answer. He didn’t speak for a short period of time, which my lady and I took as a blessing. He finally looked at me and confirmed that my answer was indeed correct.

At that moment I felt this pain in my left side. It turns out that my little lady was so delighted that she started elbowing me in the side without our friend knowing it.

When he handed the money to me I said, “Why don’t you give the money to my mother?

He said, “I didn’t know she was your mother.”

“Well, of course you didn’t, you never took the time to ask either of us our names.”

We didn’t hear a word out of him the rest of the way. What a blessing that was.

After we boarded the plane she couldn’t thank me enough and offered to buy me a drink.

Oh, the correct answer was Jupiter. And they say there’s no money in science.

The point here: Don’t make bets with people you don’t know.

And what does that have to do with our topic today? I really don’t know.

The Earth and Blue Sky

Even though the Earth is so small compared to other bodies in space; to us it seems unbelievably large. When we stand on the Earth it doesn’t seem to curve at all. It’s just like a huge flat floor disappearing into the distance. You can see why early man thought Earth was flat. I’m sure even today there are folks out there that think the same.

Are you one of them?

You might say Earth blocks half of space for us. Your surroundings seem to be divided into two halves: below you have the Earth, above the half we call the sky. During the day you would think you would still see the dark skies with all the wonders we see at night time. Instead, the sky is bright blue. You can see the sun and moon, but no stars. Why is that? Well, I couldn’t explain why.

So I looked that bit of information up:

Caused by the sun light bombarding the Earth’s atmosphere, some of the light, mostly blue, bounces in all directions off the particles in the air giving us our blue skies. The light from the stars can’t compete with blue light of our sky so it is near impossible to see them.

My telescope has a go-to procedure that can locate the brighter stars and some planets. It’s impressive to be able to show people the planet Jupiter in the middle of the day. So the sun, Earth and its atmosphere are to fault for preventing you from viewing the stars during the day. But before you get upset; remember without them we wouldn’t exist. I think that’s a fair trade, don’t you.

Clear Skies, day or night.

What’s up at night this month:

June 15: Moon passes 2° north of Uranus

June 16: Moon passes 4° north of Mercury
June 17: Mercury passed 4° north of Aldebaran
June 18: New Moon
June 21: Summer solstice occurs
June 21: Moon passes 4° north of Venus
June 22: Moon passes 4° north of Mars
June 22: Moon is sat apogee (251,895 miles from Earth)
June 26: First Quarter Moon

I am excited to bring you my monthly article on my favorite subject; Astronomy. My interest started in the seventh grade when my Mother, no I mean Santa, brought me my first telescope, a 3" Refractor....