My Midsummer Night’s Dream

Every year I look forward to the summer solstice in June, not because I’m in love with the heat and humidity that pervades Kansas, but rather because it signals the beginning of the shorter days and longer nights.  Until recently, my amateur astronomy goals didn’t include solar observing, but twice in the last month I’ve been drawn into observing a solar eclipse and the transit of Venus.  I can safely say I’ve had my fill of the sun for the foreseeable future.

Diagram of the Earth’s seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.

This evening at 6:09 p.m. CDT, less than an hour after I return home from work, the sun will reach the highest position in the sky, as seen from the Northern Hemisphere.  Tomorrow, and each succeeding day thereafter, the sun will ‘fall’ ever so slowly back towards the south (most notable at dawn or dusk).  Someday I hope to visit the far north, perhaps Canada or Alaska and experience the midnight sun, or rather a full day of sun, sans sunrise or sunset.

But for the next six months, I will take advantage of the lengthening nights to achieve some of my other astronomical observing goals, provided the clouds, humidity and winds cooperate.

In the short term, though, my yard and trees could really use some rain. You won’t catch me lighting a midsummer bonfire in my backyard tonight!  Too much chance of everything, including the house, going up in flames.

Welcome to Summer!

Venus Transits the Midnight Sun ~ NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (for June 20, 2012). Click image to enlarge.