Full Moon is Just Part of Great Bitterroot Night Skies
The Full Moon this month is called the "Buck Moon" in some cultures. It will officially be Full at about 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. But when we see it Friday night, there will be an extra feature nearby - Mars. The planet is at opposition and its orbit is bringing it closer to Earth than in the last 15 years. It's so bright that it outshines Jupiter. Venus and Saturn are also making themselves bright this month. You might have heard that there's a lunar eclipse. Sorry, it's not visible in our part of the world. The total lunar eclipse Friday, when the moon turns "blood" red as Earth passes between it and the Sun, is visible only in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
This weekend, you might see some "falling stars." We're in the early stages of the Perseid Meteor Shower, with the peak on August 12 and 13. The shower is one of the best known meteor showers. July 17 to August 24, Earth passes through debris left from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The most debris is expected in the second week of August. The little tiny bits of leftover comet get burned up in the atmosphere and we should see quite a few this year, because the moon won't be so bright (only in a quarter phase). Get a lawn chair, sit back and relax, with best viewing starting at about 10 p.m. August 12 and on into the morning hours. Just like the weather, we're never sure if the meteor shower will be "busy" with lots of meteors or a less active shower. Take a chance and watch, especially in the Bitterroot Valley (and Western Montana) with our access to some dark skies. If you're hiking out in the mountains those nights, get out of your tent at those higher altitudes and see what you can see.