2021, August 6: Summer’s Midpoint

August 6, 2021:  In the northern hemisphere, summer’s midpoint occurs today at 6:27 p.m. CDT.

2021, July 2: Sunrise!
Photo Caption – 2021, July 2: Sunrise!

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

August 1 is known as Lammas Day, the beginning of the harvest season on some traditional festival calendars.  It roughly marks the mid-point of astronomical summer.

To Native Americans, this mark in the year is about the time of the Green Corn Ceremony, to celebrate the time of the best crop.  The date is variable depending on the progress of the planting season.  For those groups that used the horizon as a calendar, the sun has the same rising azimuth on August 1 as it did on May 10, about the day that seeds were sown.  

Dividing the summer season in half, the mid-point is on August 6 at 6:27 p.m. CDT.  In the United States, seasonally summer runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the time between the typical end of the school year until it begins again.

Astronomically, the season runs nearly 94 days, although the equinox occurs about eight hours short of the full 94th day.

The autumnal equinox occurs on September 22 at 2:21 p.m. CDT.

During early August, the sun is in the sky, at the mid-northern latitudes for about 14 hours, 15 minutes.  The length of daylight slowly decreases during the month. By month’s end daylight’s length is slightly longer than 13 hours.

Interesting events during the month include the first appearance of Sirius before sunrise, the Perseid meteor shower, the brightening of the variable star Mira, and the very challenging of observing the five bright planets simultaneously.

Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, the thin crescent moon (27.4d, 5%) is over 10° up in the east-northeast, 5.6° to the upper right of Pollux (β Gem, m = 1.2).  Farther westward along the ecliptic, Jupiter is nearly 23° up in the southwest, 0.9° to the upper right of ι Aqr.  Retrograding in Aquarius, it is less than two weeks away from its opposition with the sun.  Saturn, 19.1° to the lower right of the Jovian Giant, is about 7° above the west-southwest horizon.  Retrograding in Capricornus and four days after its solar opposition, is 4.2° to the lower right of θ Cap. The mid-point of summer occurs at 6:27 p.m. CDT. In the evening sky about 30 minutes after sunset and leading up to its close conjunction with Mercury on August 18, dim Mars is about 5° up in the west, 14.0° to the lower right of Venus.  Clearly optical aid is needed to find the Red Planet.  As twilight continues to fade, Spica, less than 20° up in the southwest, is 35.0° to the upper left of Venus.  At forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is about 8° up in the west and Saturn is nearly 10° above the southeast horizon. Have you observed Venus and Jupiter in the sky at the same time?  Look for them about an hour after sunset. As midnight approaches, Jupiter is nearly 28° above the southeast horizon.  Saturn is nearly the same altitude as Jupiter in the south-southeastern sky.  Fomalhaut, about 7° up in the sky, is nearly 21° to the lower left of Jupiter.

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