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Articles by J. Alex Knoll

You’ll find good news aplenty in this week’s paper — and some bright spots in the classifieds, too

Editor and publisher Sandra Olivetti Martin, vacationing with husband and Bay Weekly co-founder Bill Lambrecht, both of whom celebrate birthdays within a week of the year’s mid-point, asked for a week off from her usual letter. So I write you in her stead, aquake at the responsibility of filling this coveted space.
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The stars and planets are the original fireworks

While these are the shortest nights of the year, many a fond memory is set star-gazing on warm summer evenings. And in between the bursts of flame and the clouds of smoke honoring our independence this week, Friday’s new moon provides a dark backdrop highlighting the greatest show in the heavens.
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Can you see the Milky Way?

A week after solstice, the 28th marks the latest sunset of the year, at 44 seconds past 8:35. And while a few bright lights will pierce the glare of twilight, it isn’t until nearly 10pm that the sky truly darkens and the stars start to shine.
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Hidden amid the year’s shortest night, the sky beckons

With days upon days of scorching weather already, you might be surprised that summer begins only this week, on June 21, with the summer solstice. On this day, the sun reaches its farthest point north in the sky, 231⁄2 degrees north of the equator directly over the Tropic of Cancer. That morning the sun rises at 5:40 and sets 14 hours, 55 minutes later at 8:35.
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The full moon is at its lowest, while the sun nears its peak

Week’s end finds the waxing gibbous moon high in the south at sunset, around 8:30. Thursday evening it shines to the west of golden Saturn and the blue-white star Spica, but the next night it has snuggled within 10 degrees of both, forming a loose triangle....

Let the waxing crescent guide you through the heavens

As the sun sets near 8:30 Friday, look for an ever-so-slender crescent moon hugging the west-northwest horizon. Just two days past new phase, only about five percent of the lunar disk will be illuminated. To spot this sliver of moon, you’ll need an unobstructed view of the horizon, and binoculars may help you to pick it out from the lingering glare of dusk.
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Look overhead to Corona Borealis

With week’s end, the sun sets at 8:20 and each night after almost a minute later. But it’s still more than an hour later that the glow of dusk gives way fully to darkness. By that time Saturn shines high in the south, the only planet visible until well before dawn.
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Look for the hero Hercules between the stars of spring and summer

The waning gibbous moon rises in the southeast a couple hours before midnight at week’s end, but Tuesday’s last-quarter moon does not crest the horizon until almost 2am.
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Four planets await the keen-eyed early bird

The sun sets this week around 8:10. Following the trail of the sun, look above the northwest horizon for golden Capella, the sixth-brightest star. Opposite, in the northwest, shines Vega, the fifth brightest star. This time each year, the two line up at the same height in the sky, right now around 10pm.
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Meteors and planets dance across our skies

The annual Eta Aquarid meteors will likely be at their best before dawn Friday with encores possible early Saturday and Sunday. Unless you’re pulling an all-nighter, you’ll have to wake early, as the closer to dawn the greater their intensity.
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