As August began, all of the bright planets were visible in our western slope skies. Since all of our solar system planets orbit the sun, the visible planets change from night to night. 

As of today’s program, we have already lost Mercury from view for the rest of this month. It was visible in the early dawn for the first two weeks of the month. However, we still have Venus shining low on the evening horizon. Saturn will end the month just a little higher than Venus. Jupiter rises well after midnight, followed by Mars even later.

The Perseid meteor shower sprinkles the night sky with shooting stars in August.

The meteors are bits of icy and rocky debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. As Earth flies through the comet’s path, some bits of comet dust slam into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. They quickly vaporize, creating bright but brief streaks of light in the night sky.

This is the second in a series on Women in Astronomy. 

In the early 1900s, Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered a characteristic of certain variable stars that is still used today to measure astronomical distance. 

While there are always objects of interest to see in the night sky throughout the year, the summer sky is unique in that it offers us a view into the very center of the Milky Way, our home galaxy.

This is the first in a series of Western Slope Skies episodes about Women in Astronomy.  We hope that, in some manner, these inspire our young female listeners to become involved in astronomy.

On June 16, 1963, the Russians launched Vostok 6.  The lone astronaut on board was Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.  She was in space for 48 orbits over three days.  In her single mission, she logged more time in space than all the American astronauts who had been in space to that date combined.

Have you ever attended a night sky session and heard people talk about Messier 13 or Messier 6?  Today we discuss the man whose list is a legacy that still excites astronomers over 200 years later. 

Charles Messier was born in France on June 26, 1730.  He became interested in astronomy at a young age.  In 1751, the French Navy hired Messier as an assistant astronomer in Paris.