Night Sky Wonders of Spring/Summer 2021

Posted 5/5/21

As Cottage Grove inches towards summer with each day, nightly temperatures are increasing. The minimum temperature on April 1 was 20° F. By April 26, the minimum temperature was 39° F. These data …

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Night Sky Wonders of Spring/Summer 2021


As Cottage Grove inches towards summer with each day, nightly temperatures are increasing. The minimum temperature on April 1 was 20° F. By April 26, the minimum temperature was 39° F. These data points recorded by the Twin Cities National Weather Service Forecast Office indicate an increase in evening and early morning temperatures. In addition, they have created a thrilling opportunity for Cottage Grove to witness celestial events comfortably. During the month of April, The Journal gazed upward on two separate occasions, hoping to capture a meteor shower and a supermoon. More wonders are predicted to appear in Cottage Grove’s night sky this late spring and summer.

The first astronomical event that The Journal researched is “known to be spectacular,” according to Deane Morrison. At the University of Minnesota, Morrison is a writer, editor, and specializes in University Relations. Also, Morrison is proficient on the subject of celestial events. She pointed out some riveting facts about the Lyrid meteor shower.

The initial record of this event dates back to 687 B.C. in ancient China, based on Morrison’s sources. Equally striking, this particular meteor shower adapted its name from Lyra the Harp, a constellation. This is due to the fact that the radiation point of the Lyrid meteor shower coincidentally aligns with Vega, a star of Lyra. One final aspect of the celestial event worth mentioning is its purpose. Morrison identified it in an exchange with The Journal, “It represents the incineration of dust and debris left behind by Comet Thatcher.”

The University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum announced that the Lyrid meteor shower of 2021 would peak on the evening of April 22 and last into the next morning. Unfortunately, cloud coverage caused poor visibility in Cottage Grove’s sky that night. The Lyrid meteor shower will recur in April of 2022.

Shortly after, The Journal was delighted to experience the first supermoon of 2021 in Cottage Grove. Supermoons have three defining characteristics. National Geographic acknowledges these in their article, Supermoon. First, Earth’s Moon must be in its Full Moon phase. Secondly, the Moon is required to be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. Finally, the Moon is only a valid supermoon when it idles in a state termed “perigee”. Phrased in a different way, a supermoon is in close proximity to Earth.

Morrison told The Journal that there would be three different supermoons in 2021 and that they would all occur in spring and summer. During the evening of April 26, The Journal witnessed the first supermoon of 2021. At 10:33pm, the supermoon was at its most complete form. Prior to this astronomical event, Morrison told The Journal, “So this will be not only the second closest full moon of the year, but, as it clears the eastern horizon, one of the largest and roundest.”

Discussion over two remarkable occurrences in Cottage Grove’s sky may have inclined local residents to start stargazing. Therefore, The Journal requested for Morrison’s preview of forthcoming celestial events.

To begin with, a second supermoon can be anticipated during the month of May. It will occur in the early hours of May 26. Morrison ran over the specific details of the second and notable supermoon of 2021, “The moon will become full after moonset that morning, when it also undergoes a total lunar eclipse that morning. The partial eclipse begins at 4:45 a.m., and a short (14-15 min.) totality starts at 6:11 a.m…At 8:50 p.m. May 25, the moon reaches a perigee of 222,023 miles from Earth. Closest full moon of 2021, but only by 0.04%, according to NASA…”

In Cottage Grove, on May 26, the moon will set at 5:38am. This indicates that nearby stargazers will only be able to view that partial lunar eclipse.

Another notable astronomical event in which Morrison acknowledged was a third supermoon. On June 23, the Moon will be situated just 223,666 miles from Earth. Later on, the Moon will grow full at 1:41pm on June 24th. The supermoon will be on display for Cottage Grove once the Moon rises at 9:29pm.

After a late spring and early summer stocked with supermoons, what Morrison illustrates as a “big” meteor shower will happen. The Peresid meteor shower’s title derives from the constellation, Perseus the Hero. It will occur when comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle travels towards the inner solar system. The American Meteor Society predicts that the Persid meteor shower’s period of activity is July 17, 2021 through August 26, 2021. However, it will be most noticeable during a single night. “Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak the night of August 11 and is best seen in the predawn hour of August 12. No moon will interfere,” Morrison stated.

As all of these stimulating events unfold in Cottage Grove’s night sky, Jupiter and Saturn will remain visible. Therefore, if one happens to miss out on the temporary astronomical events this spring and summer, a chance to encounter some planets will stay. Morrison outlined when and how to locate them, “Jupiter and Saturn are now morning planets, but they start rising before midnight in midsummer and will be visible low in the southeast at nightfall in August and September. The later the date, the earlier they will appear. Try 10-10:30 p.m. in early August, 9 p.m. early September. Jupiter is the slightly lower and brighter planet.”

The University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum publishes star maps on their website every other month. If one yearns to establish a habit of stargazing this spring and summer, this resource can aid them. star-map/ is the link that will lead users to upcoming moon phases, astronomy highlights, a star map, stargazing tips, and more.