The days are long and the nights short. There is not much time for stargazing, but if you do find yourself out under the stars, there is plenty to see up there. The entire universe is yours to explore.
If you can see low into the south, try to spot the constellation Sagittarius, the archer. One of the more southerly constellations, it can be a little difficult to find from the northern latitudes like ours. It is supposed to portray a centaur, a creature which is half human and half horse.
An easier way to look at it is to imagine a teapot up there in the stars. Teapots have steam wafting from them and Sagittarius is no exception. Except in this case the steam is composed of stars, the Milky Way. When your eyes get adjusted to the dark look for the Milky Way extending all across the sky to the north.
In Greek mythology Sagittarius is associated with the centaur Chiron. While most centaurs were rowdy and even dangerous, Chiron was studious and more sedate in his demeanor. He was a noted scholar and imparted his vast knowledge to many famous students. Jason of the Argonauts; Ajax and Achilles, two Greek warriors; Aeneas, founder of Rome and others all learned under the guidance of the centaur.
Looking up at the constellation Sagittarius, we are gazing into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, our home in the infinite cosmos. Residing at that heart lurks a terrifying monster, a massive black hole, one of the strangest inhabitants of the universe. It is impossible for us to imagine such an object so alien to our experience here on earth.
A quadrillion (that is a big number, by the way) years from now, maybe much longer, our sun will evolve into a bizarre form of itself known as a black dwarf. Smooth as a billiard ball without one speck of itself rising even a millimeter above its black surface and having the density 125,000 times greater than steel, it will be incomprehensible to us.
No coming back
The black hole at the center of our galaxy, however, is far stranger. It is completely invisible to us because light cannot escape its intense gravitational field. Surrounding its obscurity is a zone called the event horizon, also known as the point of no return. Anything passing that region is stuck forever in that gravity well of the black hole.
Deep inside, a singularity of infinite gravity marks the spot where the laws of physics break down and, and no one knows what might happen there.
That monster is known to astronomers as Sagittarius A. It gobbles up a star like our sun every million years or so for a snack. What would happen to us if we were to suffer such a dreadful fate?
Well, here is the bad news. The Earth and everything on it will be squeezed down to the size of a pea. The good news is we are a long ways away from that black hole, about 26,000 light years away. If you want to translate that into miles, multiply 26,000 times 6,000,000,000,000. You get the idea. We are a long ways away.
One interesting thing about black holes is that astronomers have discovered that they actually make “noise.” I put that in quotes because first of all sound waves do not travel through space and that sound is a million billion times lower than what the human ear can hear. Google it sometime and listen to a recording. It is quite entertaining.
All of the planets are still in the east before dawn, which means you have to get up really early to see them. Also, Earth reaches a milestone in its yearly journey around the sun on July 4. It Is called Aphelion, and we are farthest from the sun on that day. What I want to know is why it is so hot everywhere.