Celestial Entertainment Is on the Marque
Mount Bump. You won’t find it on any map. And it won’t dial in on your GPS. However, this little-known geographical feature in southern Lake County could become the next hot-spot for star-gazing as July’s night skies offer up some very unique astronomical events. So, if you’re looking for something different to do which allows you to respect all of the public health guidelines in place concerning COVID-19, Leadville Today offers the following with a little help from the Space Tourism Guide. July is a great time to look up and get inspired!
Located in the heart of the Village, Mount Bump is the locally known hill that rises above the historic log-building just behind the Red Rooster Visitor Center at Twin Lakes . There is plenty of parking in the USFS lot off Highway 82 and the trailhead picks up adjacent to the restrooms. The trek up the hill is a bit of an incline but offers a full view of the night sky.
However, viewing from your car in the visitor center parking lot or anywhere along the shoreline of Twin Lakes can offer the same magic. And why not make it dinner and star-gazing with some dine-in or to-go meals from the Twin Lakes Inn, or Punky’s Food Trailer? And there’s plenty to do before the sunsets and the stars come out, from taking in a Twin Lakes Interlaken Boat Tour or paddle your own way with a rental from Sup and Cycle or Twin Lakes Canoe & Kayak Adventures with both companies doing business from the shoreline. If you decide to do your own lakeside picnic, you can always pick up supplies in the Village at the Twin Lakes General Store or the Lake Creek General Store located in the Win Mar Cabins at the junction of Highways 82 & 24.
In fact, starting with tonight’s official full moon, the next weeks offer a lunar eclipse, a comet, and an asteroid, four close approaches with visible planets, and three meteor showers! The July night sky will be full of wonders, and hopefully clear of clouds. So dust off that telescope and grab the outside blankets and camp chairs because you don’t want to miss this month’s night sky events. According to the Space Tourism Guide, the following is what you can expect to see if you look up after dark this month.
July 5 – Close Approach of the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn
- On the night of July 5th, the Moon will take on a different role in the night sky. It will begin to make the first of several planetary ‘close approaches’ from our perspective here on earth.
- First, the Moon will make a close approach with Jupiter; the closest moment will be at 21:56 UTC when they appear within 1°51′ of each other. Next, the Moon will move on to approach Saturn. At 09:13 UTC, they’ll appear within 2°27′ of each other. While these two approaches are on opposite ends of the night, most people will be able to enjoy one or both of the close approaches on this night.
July 8 – Venus at Greatest Brightness
- Venus has shifted from appearing as an evening planet to rising bright in the morning sky. On the morning of July 8th, Venus will be at its brightest of the year rising to a height of 10° above the horizon before the sun grows too bright to see our neighboring planet anymore.
- Venus will continue to rise higher in the sky through the coming months, reaching a peak of 42° above the horizon in early September.
July 11 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars
- We haven’t seen much of Mars lately, but that changes in July when the Moon and Mars make a close approach from our earthly perspective. On the night of July 11th at 21:20 UTC, the Moon will pass within 1°46′ of Mars in the sky. While brightly illuminated at 20 days old, you should still be able to spot rusty orange Mars near the moon around this time.
July 15 – Asteroid 2 Pallas & Pluto both at Opposition
- Looking for a night to bring out your telescope for some deeper solar system-gazing? The night of July 15 is a good opportunity. On this night, two objects that require a telescope will be at opposition, that is at their brightest from our perspective and alignment with the sun.
- The first is asteroid 2 Pallas. 2 Pallas was the second asteroid ever discovered (hence the name), and is the third-largest asteroid in the asteroid belt. Astronomers even believe it may be the remnant of a protoplanet from the early eons of our solar system. 2 Pallas will be in the constellation Sagitta and high in the eastern sky.
- Pluto will also be at opposition on July 15th, visible in the constellation Sagittarius. It will be in the southeastern sky, visually close to both Jupiter and Saturn. Pluto will also be close to perigee, it’s closest point to earth on the dwarf planet’s long 248-year orbit.
July 16 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
- Rounding out the close approaches this month, the Moon makes one final brush past Venus in the early morning hours of July 16th. The closest approach – when the two will appear to pass within 3°03′ of each other will occur at 06:06 UTC. This means that those further west in the hemisphere will have a better chance to see the Moon and Venus in close proximity.
July 24 – Mercury Reaches its Highest Point in the Morning Sky
- Ah, little Mercury… so hard to spot! Mercury has several points throughout the year where it appears high enough above the horizon before or after the sun to be seen; the next opportunity is around July 24th, when Mercury will reach its highest point in the morning sky.
- To try and spot Mercury, you’ll need a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern horizon. Mercury will only reach a peak of 17° above the horizon on this morning, and the sun will be close behind. You don’t need a telescope to spot Mercury, but remember to protect your eyes; the sun can do damage within a few seconds if you look directly at it even during sunrise.
July 28 – Peak of the Piscis Austrinid Meteor Shower
- The first in a trio of meteor showers that round out the month, the Piscis Austrinid meteor shower will peak on the night of July 28th. As its name implies, this shower can be seen lower in the southeastern sky of the southern hemisphere.
- To try and spot Piscis Austrinid meteors, you’ll need to stay up late: the peak is expected to occur around 3 am local time, and the radiant point will be in the Piscis Austrinus constellation. The maximum rate of meteors you can expect to see will be about 5 per hour.
July 29 – Peak of the Southern Aquariid & Capricornid Meteor Showers
- Two more meteor showers provide the final good stargazing and meteor-spotting opportunities of July, and both peak on the night of July 29th.
- The first is the Southern ?-Aquariids. Better viewed from the southern hemisphere (or further south on the northern hemisphere), you can expect to see a maximum of around 25 meteors per hour. Look for the constellation Aquarius in the southeastern sky to try and identify the radiant point.
- The second meteor shower on this night is the Capricornid, a much less active shower with an expected maximum rate of 5 meteors per hour. The constellation Capricorus will be in the south-southeastern sky, not far from Aquarius – it’ll be hard to tell which meteors “belong” to which shower but together they create the prospects for an interesting night.
So there you have it, some celestial inspiration as Lake County’s warmest weather month offers plenty to do outdoors, especially when the sun sets over some of the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains. Thanks to Space Tourism Guide for the great information. This story was sent to Leadville Today as a news tip. If you have a story idea, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
July Weather Forecast for Leadville/Lake County