EYES TO THE SKY: Cosmos of starry skies reflected in Earth’s fireflies

EYES TO THE SKY: Cosmos of starry skies reflected in Earth's fireflies

Fireflies and Star Trails No. 1, Mike Lewinski, Milo, Maine. Courtesy of Greg Seitz via Flicker.

July 9 – 22, 2022

On dark June and July nights, in the absence of moonlight, the cosmos of stars meets and seems to blend with brilliant, flashing firefly lights in the space between treetops and ground in a great, animated surround. Blinking lightning bugs stream over wild meadows, fallow hay fields and gardens leaving the awe-struck stargazer rapt in Earth’s near atmosphere that is alive with luminescent, courting beetles.

When moonlight hides all but the brightest stars, lightning bugs seem to prevail uninterrupted from dusk to dawn. This weekend and through Full Moon on Wednesday, July 13, a waxing gibbous moon drenches the summer landscape in alluring light that encourages walking and exploring outdoors. Massachusetts Audubon offers tips for observing fireflies and coordinates a national community science project, Firefly Watch. Participants in Firefly Watch are engaged at their own pace at locations of their choice. All contribute to a critical population census. The Columbia (County) Land Conservancy also seeks observers for a census. Find information here.

Take head! Let’s reduce light pollution one less light at a time. Especially minimize outdoor lighting, and go to DarkSky.org.

Stargazers and firefly enthusiasts share life-threatening concerns: light pollution is destructive to firefly functioning and to human connection to the universe beyond Earth. Effects of light pollution are of consequence to humanity worldwide.

Now, a draft of stargazer’s delight.

Before Leo the Lion departs the night sky until spring 2023, see the wonderful figure of the iconic spring constellation above the western horizon at about 10 o’clock. Regulus, the Lion’s leading foot star, sets in the west on July 9, at 10:38 pm

Arriving in the night sky, pale-gold Saturn, 0.51 magnitude, rises July 9, in the east-southeast at 10:21 pm at horizon views. Saturn rises at 10:04 pm on July 13 and 22, the ringed planet, at magnitude .42, rises at 9:27 pm at unobstructed views.

The first Webb Space Telescope full color images are to be released July 12.

Full Thunder, Buck or Hay Moon, a supermoon, reaches full phase at 2:38 pm July 13, rises 6.5 hours later at 9:03 pm in the southeast at 99.59% full. On July 12, moonrise is at 8:03 pm, which is 14.5 hours before exact full phasedisk 99.14% full.

Diagram courtesy of EarthSky.org.

During the third week of July, brilliant Jupiter, -2.60 magnitude, rises in the nighttime sky, following Saturn.

Planets Jupiter and Saturn return to the night sky: Jupiter (-2.60 magnitude) rises in the east at 11:13 pm on July 22, following dimmer Saturn’s (0.42m) 9:28 pm rising in the east-southeast. Diagram for July 22, 2022, Great Barrington, MA at 11:40 pm Image by Judy Isacoff/StarryNight7.

Here’s to the beetle in lightning bug and firefly.

Photinus Firefly, about half-inch in length, produces yellow-green flash at dusk and at night. All fireflies belong to the same beetle family, although three groups have different ways of attracting mates: some fireflies make quick flashes, while other fireflies give long-lasting glows, and still others use invisible chemical signals. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Audubon.

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