With the Milky Way becoming prominent on summer evenings, binocular stargazing is a great way to pass the time. A good place to start this year is with Jupiter to pick out its four moons, which look like dimmer stars on either side and change position nightly. Often, one or two might be unseen as they pass in front of or behind the planet. Orange Antares is to the lower right of Jupiter. Check out the colour of this supergiant star, and pick out the globular cluster M4 in the same field of view to its right.
Lower left of Jupiter is the Teapot asterism that makes up much of Sagittarius the Archer. If you extend the two stars at the top of the Teapot’s spout to the right you will find M6, the aptly named Butterfly Cluster. To its lower left is a large star cluster called M7 or Ptolemy’s Cluster. To the right of M7 is a pair of bright stars, Shaula and Lesath, which marks the stinger of Scorpius. They have been nicknamed the Cat’s Eyes.
About a binocular-field width above the teapot’s spout you will find a fuzzy patch with a small cluster of stars in or near it. The fuzzy patch is a cloud of dust and gas called M8, the Lagoon Nebula, where stars are forming. Radiation from hot young stars makes the gas glow, and it can be seen with the naked eye in rural areas. A telescope will reveal dark dust lanes in the nebula that suggest its lagoon name. The cluster of stars is called NGC 6530, where NGC stands for New General Catalogue. Just above M8 is a smaller cloud, M20 or the Trifid Nebula, and the nearby star cluster M21.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:40 am and sunset will occur at 9:08 pm, giving 15 hours, 28 minutes of daylight (5:48 am and 9:10 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:47 am and set at 9:02 pm, giving 15 hours, 15 minutes of daylight (5:55 am and 9:05 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is full on Tuesday, the Mi’gmaw Birds Shed Feathers Moon. It is near Jupiter this Saturday and near Saturn on Monday, but much of the media focus will be on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing next Saturday. Jupiter is at its highest and best for observing in late evening, and telescope users might see its Red Spot around 10 pm on Tuesday and before midnight on Thursday. Saturn trails Jupiter by about two hours in the evening sky, while Mercury, Mars and Venus are too close to the Sun for comfortable viewing.
Members of RASC NB and the Saint John Astronomy Club will be offering views of the night sky at the St, George Summerfest on July 19, and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20 at the Moonlight Bazaar in Uptown Saint John.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason at email@example.com.