Friday, 1 July 2011

First Post of July - Farmer's Calendar

"Around midsummer, as the nights grow cooler and heavy dews begin to fall, meadows and lawns are the sites of mysterious nocturnal gatherings whose signs we find on starting our day in the morning. Scattered over the grass are small scraps or patches of material, gray or white fragments a few inches square. Did messy elvish picnickers leave behind their dirty napkins?

No. The patches are evidence of little funnel-web spiders (family Agelenidae). They are dime-sized creatures that live in the grasses and spin their flat, dense sheet-like webs close to the ground, like tiny carpets woven among the grass stems. The family includes more than 400 species in North America.

Funnel-web spiders prey on insects caught in their webs. Examine a web closely and you'll find a small funnel in one corner or side, where the spider lies in wait. The webs are virtually invisible by day, except when the dew, falling in early morning, collects on them. By mid-morning, the webs will have disappeared. Now, however, they lie everywhere on the fields and lawns. They look like hundreds of soiled handkerchiefs, as though a fairy audience the night before had assembled on your lawn to enjoy, with plentiful tears, an expert, highly pathetic, deeply moving performance of Romeo and Juliet."

Sky Watch Earth reaches aphelion, its furthest point from the sun, on the 4th. Saturn, in the southwest at nightfall, stands above the Moon on the 7th and sets at around midnight at month's end. Mercury has a so-so evening-watch showing during the first three weeks of the month 8 degrees high in falling twilight, in Cancer. It's brightest on the 2nd - 4th. Jupiter rises at around 1:00am at mid-month. Dim Mars, near the Moon on the night of the 26th, still beats the dawn by only 2 hours. Month's end brings an unusually close visit by the asteroid Vespa, which is faintly visible by the naked eye at magnitude 5.7 in the lower-central part of Capricornus.

New Moon 1st Day 4th Hour 54th Minute
First Quarter 8th Day 2nd Hour 29th Minute
Full Moon 15th Day 2nd Hour 40th Minute
Last Quarter 23rd Day 1st Hour 2nd Minute
New Moon 30th Day 14th Hour 40th Minute

The crescent Moon will rise at 0845 on the fourth and set 2221 that night; which makes for perfect viewing of the fireworks. A full Moon, while always a lovely sight, would detract from the fireworks at its usual magnitude of -12.74 (something magnitude 12.75 invisible to us without a professional telescope - but something magnitude -12.74 dominates the sky. In case you are wondering, the sun is -26.7).

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