What’s Up December 2014

Geminid Meteors over Teide Volcano Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars)

Geminid Meteors over Teide Volcano
Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars)

Another year is drawing to a close. On December 21st at 6:03 p.m. Eastern Standard Time we reach a celestial turnaround point: the solstice, a Latin word meaning “Sun stands still.” At that moment the Sun appears farthest south in the sky, standing directly over Earth’s Tropic of Capricorn, and reverses direction to return gradually to northern declinations. This date marks the astronomical beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere and of winter up here in the north.

For stargazing, it’s a time of transition as well. The planets Mercury, Venus, and Saturn are hidden in twilight as December begins, though by month’s end Venus barely peeks over the western horizon at dusk and Saturn emerges in the east before dawn. Mars is still with us, low in the southwest after sunset, and Jupiter rises in late evening.

Leading the way for Jupiter is majestic Orion, which veritably leaps up over the eastern horizon around 7 pm at the beginning of December but soon after sunset by month’s end. You’ll be able to spot the Hunter’s distinctive three-star belt, oriented as a vertical row as the constellation climbs into the sky. The belt is flanked by ruddy Betelgeuse to its left and icy-white Rigel to its right.

December is also the month that features the return of one of the year’s very best meteor showers: the Geminids. From a clear, dark location, you might see one meteor per minute or more when it peaks on the nights of December 13th and 14th.
Sky and Telescope

The Full Moon was on the 6th, and the next New Moon is on the 22nd.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

What’s Up October 2014

A Total Lunar Eclipse Over North Carolina

A Total Lunar Eclipse Over North Carolina
Credit & Copyright: David Cortner, davidcortner.com

Without a doubt, the big sky events this month are a pair of cosmic coverups — a total lunar eclipse on October 8th, the night of full Moon, and then a partial solar eclipse two weeks later on the 24th, when the new Moon slides directly between us and the Sun.

Planetwise, the pickings are getting slim. Mars and Saturn are both observable low in the southwest after sunset as October opens, but by Halloween Saturn will have disappeared in the twilight glow.

When stargazing in October, Pegasus, the Winged Horse, leads the constellation parade. Find it easily by spotting the large square of four stars that represent its upside-down body. Over in the north, look for the Big Dipper low down and queen Cassiopeia’s “W” high up, a pair of distinctive, circumpolar star patterns that frame the north celestial pole and Polaris.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 8th, and the next New Moon is on the 23rd.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

What’s Up September 2014

The Summer Triangle

September’s equinox takes place on the 22nd at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. At that moment the Sun shines directly overhead as seen from the equator. Days and nights are both 12 hours long — that’s where the word equinox comes from — and no matter where you live the Sun rises due east and sets due west.

As darkness falls on September 1st, look for the planets Mars and Saturn to the Moon’s lower right. At month’s end, the Moon will have gone through nearly a complete cycles of phases and return to this stretch of sky. But by then Mars and Saturn will have shifted somewhat. Look for a very thin crescent Moon to Saturn’s right on the 27th. The ringed planet will soon sink from view.

Vega is right overhead at nightfall; use it to find the trapezoid-shaped head of Draco, the Dragon, about 1½ fists to Vega’s north. From there a long line of Draco’s stars snakes along a curving line between the Big and Little Dippers. A second trapezoid, to the west of Vega, marks the Keystone of the constellation Hercules, a great hero in Roman mythology. Look beyond the Keystone toward west, a little more than one fist, to spot a lovely semicircle of stars called Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.

Even if light pollution makes these groupings (and the Milky Way) difficult to see, the Summer Triangle — comprising the bright “alpha stars” Vega, Deneb, and Altair — is unmistakable overhead.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 9th, and the next New Moon is on the 24th.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

Not a Small Town Girl

by Sarah Sumita Kosso

“Don’t blink, you won’t want to miss it,” is what I was told upon my anticipation and arrival to McCloud, California. I, coming from a hometown of 67,000, always considered myself to know a small town living best. What did I really know? Inhabitants of McCloud must have thought me crazy to have ever thought this as the town itself has just over 1,000 residents.

In order to reach the McCloud area, located in Siskiyou County, I flew into Redding, California. Redding felt hot, flat, and dusty to me and was thankfully not my final destination. My journey included a winding drive from Redding’s 500 feet in elevation up to around 3300 feet. The trip was breathtaking. As soon as we reached view of Mt. Shasta, passed over Shasta Lake, and wound our way up into the depth of the forest I knew I was someplace special.

McCloud I quickly learned was full of charm. From eating pancakes at the White Mountain Café to souvenir shopping at the McCloud Mercantile Company to kayaking for hours on McCloud Lake, I was treated to the full experience. One of my favorite parts of visiting the town had to be taking in the sight of McCloud River Falls (there’s an Upper, Middle, and Lower!). McCloud was a place where everybody was happy to be as well as content knowing one another. Driving down any street, drivers wave at each other, whether or not they know who is in the passing car. Time and the pace of life was so different up there, I loved it and felt I was truly learning the meaning of a small town. Can you believe it gets better than this? Let me tell you about Mt. Shasta.

The town of Mt. Shasta is about 10 miles from McCloud, a nice drive just over the hill. This town lies at the base of the Mountain Shasta, well known for its stunning glacial fields and striking lenticular clouds, forming around its peak. I easily found some of my favorite restaurants in this town including the Wayside Grill, Casa Ramos, and Seven Suns Coffee Café. Over the 4th of July weekend I attended the Mt. Shasta Street Fair and was exposed to the true nature of the town.

Mt. Shasta, of around 3,350, had the warmest community and was full of kindness. People were the most welcoming and genuine, encouraging me to take in all the surrounding beauty of the area. I explored Mt. Shasta City Park where the Sacramento River Headwaters are located as well as the beauty of Lake Siskiyou. Venturing even further into the wilderness, I enjoyed the serenity of Castle Lake and its neighboring trails. Mt. Shasta was full of adventure, pictures, and lovely drives to other highlights such as the Mt. Shasta Lavender Farms and Living Memorial Sculpture Gardens.

I honestly cannot imagine a better place to live in than this. It is the definition of the ideal small town. The air is the clearest, the people the sweetest, and the water the purest. In my opinion, this is where you receive the perfect balance of peace, allure, and adventure. I greatly look forward to my next visit and am excited to share my experience with others.

What’s Up August 2014

Perseid Meteors Over China

Perseid Meteors Over China
Image Credit & Copyright: Xiang Zhan (Beijing Planetarium)

August will be a busy skywatching month in the evening sky. Two bright planets, Mars and Saturn, are low in the west at dusk. They’re joined by the star Spica. Look for a line of three obvious “stars,” all about the same brightness. The one on the left is Saturn, on the right is Spica, and Mars is in between.

Swing your gaze well to the left, arcing over and past the Saturn-Mars-Spica lineup. Look for a medium-bright star above the southern horizon. That’s Antares, the heart of the constellation Scorpius. Shift your gaze to the left of Antares by a bit more than two fists away. You’re looking for a group of eight medium-bright stars in the shape of a teapot. The handle is on the left and the spout, tipped down a bit, is on the right. Now when astronomers carved up the sky they didn’t call this the Teapot constellation. Instead, you’ve found the main stars of Sagittarius, the Archer. The regions around Sagittarius and Scorpius are rich with star clusters and nebulae.

Meanwhile, if you can manage to rise before the Sun on August 18th, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Venus and Jupiter — the two brightest planets — spectacularly close together not far above the horizon. They’ll be separated by less than ½°. You’ll be able to cover them both with the tip of your little finger on an outstretched arm.

And August is well known for the Perseid meteor shower, which should reach its peak late on Tuesday night, August 12th, and Wednesday morning, the 13th. Unfortunately this year the shower peaks just a couple of days after a full Moon on the 10th. You might see a Perseid or two as early as 9 or 10 p.m., but the shower doesn’t really get going until after 11 or midnight local time, after Perseus rises high in the northeast — and by then the Moon will be up.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 10th, and the next New Moon is on the 25th.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

What’s Up July 2014

Spica, Mars, and Eclipsed Moon Image Credit & Copyright: Damian Peach

Image Credit & Copyright: Damian Peach

Darkness might not last very long this month, but there’s lots to see in the night sky tonight and every night during July! Go out about 45 minutes before sunrise, and you’ll find Venus dazzling and impressive above the eastern horizon. To see fleet-footed Mercury, look around July 12th, when the innermost planet is most widely separated from the Sun. Mercury can be hard to spot, but you’ll find Mercury a bit less than one outstretched fist to the lower left of Venus.

In the evening sky, July begins with the Moon is already in view as a thin, beautiful crescent low in the west. Look closely, and you might see more than just that delicate swoosh of the crescent. Can you make out the entire lunar disk, including the portion hidden in shadow? That ghostly glow is called earthshine.

As evening twilight deepens, sweep your eye to the upper left of the sunset point, and soon you’ll run into a striking pair: bright, peachy-colored Mars and the icy white star Spica. Let your gaze drift farther left, and you’ll soon spot the planet Saturn. Shift your gaze to the lower left of Saturn, and there you’ll find the stars of Scorpius. This is one of those constellations that really looks a lot like its namesake.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 12th, and the next New Moon is on the 26th.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

Welcome Our New Executive Director

By unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce to our membership that local candidate Jim Mullins has accepted the position of Executive Director.

In this position, Jim Mullins will oversee the Chamber of Commerce’s Membership Services organization as well as the Mt. Shasta Visitor’s Bureau operations.

Jim’s extensive experience with staff development and management, regional marketing and sales as well as successful community events comes with a proven track record. I am confident in his ability to serve, benefit and expand the Chamber Membership as well as contribute to Mount Shasta Area’s overall economic growth.

Fondly referred to by many as “Big Jim,” he brings a personable warmth and emphasis on relationship building and addressing the needs of our members.

Thank you for your patience while the Board followed a three phase vetting process involving full board paper review, interviews and in-person candidate presentations. This eight-week process was intentional and paced, by design, to ensure that the over twenty national and regional applicants were fairly reviewed and had a positive and professional experience interacting with the Chamber.

Our members are our top priority, and Jim demonstrated commitment to this throughout the selection process. The Board is committed to furthering its key role in promoting Mount Shasta Area’s member businesses’ economic vitality, destination marketing development and identifying, shaping and preserving our unique community character. Jim’s background in economic development and his firsthand understanding of how businesses can be sustainable and expand will facilitate this well.

Please help us welcome Jim as our new Executive Director at the Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours Networking Event, Thursday, July 10, 5 PM at Doris Moss Realty.

Or contact Jim at the Chamber office as he is ready to meet you and support your ideas to grow the chamber member services and the Visitor’s Bureau.

Thank you,
Brett Waite
President of the Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce

What’s Up June 2014

HubbleJGRS_1000

If you love the starry sky, June is a minimalist month because the nights are so short. But there is still plenty to see in the night sky tonight. Three planets and many bright stars await you after the Sun finally sets.

Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are spread across the evening sky as twilight ends. The King of Planets is in the west, Saturn in the east, and Mars in between. Not far from Mars is the superhot star Spica, whose surface is a blistering 40,000° Fahrenheit. Saturn lies in the dim constellation of Libra, whose stars were once imagined to be the claws of Scorpius to its east.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 13th, and the next New Moon is on the 27th.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

What’s Up May 2014

Saturn, as photographed by the Cassini probe

Saturn, as photographed by the Cassini probe

These days, the Sun doesn’t set until nearly 8 o’clock, so it’s not really dark until well after dinnertime. May opens with the Moon just making its entrance into the evening sky. On the 1st, look for a thin crescent low in the west soon after sunset.

This month you have a chance to see four planets — Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn — all strung along the ecliptic (the Sun’s path among the stars) in the evening sky. Look for Mercury low in the west about 45 minutes after the Sun sets (and above that point). The best days to spot it will be roughly the last half of May, especially around the 22nd.

Jupiter is easy to find. It’s over in the west about halfway up at sunset. It outshines Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and all the stars around it. Above Jupiter, about one fist away, are the twins of Gemini, with Pollux on the left and Castor on the right. To Jupiter’s left, by about two fists, is the star Procyon, in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. To its right, three fists away, is Capella, the brightest star in the constellation Auriga.
Sky and Telescope

The next Full Moon is on the 14th, and the next New Moon is on the 28th.

The International Space Station and various satellites can be tracked and viewed at Heavens-Above.com (link is set for Mt. Shasta’s location and elevation.)

For a full list of sky happenings this month, as well as a handy printable map, download The Evening Sky Map.

Congratulations to the Chamber’s awards recipients

Businesses of the Year — Solano’s Alpine Hardware and Wholesale Solar

Business of the Year: Solano's Alpine Hardware

Business of the Year: Solano’s Alpine Hardware

Business of the Year: Wholesale Solar

Business of the Year: Wholesale Solar

Citizen of the Year — Ned Boss

Ned-Boss-2

85 guests joined us for an inspirational evening at this year’s annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Reception on Friday, April 11, 2014 at the Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum.

The buffet, catered by Black Diamond Catering, featuring gourmet hors d’oeuvres and appetizers, awakened and delighted everyone’s palate. A chocolate fountain and a complimentary glass of Champagne contributed nicely to the enjoyment of all.