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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 August 1 – August 8

After twilight look for orange Antares in the heart of Scorpius to the right of Jupiter. High above the scorpion is a large house-shaped constellation called Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer. If your area isn’t light polluted you can see two lines of stars rising up and outward from the bottom of the house. The line on the right is Serpens Caput and the one on the left is Serpens Cauda. Together they comprise Serpens the Serpent, the only constellation that is in separate parts. Globular clusters contain many tens of thousands of stars and they orbit the centre of our galaxy, which is in the direction just above the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot asterism. Therefore, these clusters abound in the Sagittarius-Scorpius-Ophiuchus region of our sky and many can be seen in binoculars as fat, fuzzy stars.

Ophiuchus represents Asclepius from mythology, who became interested in the healing arts after killing a snake and watching another snake bring it back to life with a leaf. Asclepius brought many people back from the dead, including Orion after he was killed by the scorpion. Hades, god of the Underworld, complained to Zeus about a decrease in business so Zeus sent his pet eagle to kill Asclepius with a thunderbolt. The constellation of Aquila the Eagle is east of Serpens Cauda.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:01 am and sunset will occur at 8:48 pm, giving 14 hours, 47 minutes of daylight (6:09 am and 8:50 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:10 am and set at 8:38 pm, giving 14 hours, 28 minutes of daylight (6:17 am and 8:51 pm in Saint John).

The Moon passes below Jupiter this Saturday and it is full on Monday. Both Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky during evening twilight. Telescope users might see Jupiter’s Red Spot around 10 pm Wednesday, while Saturn’s rings are a memorable sight. Mars rises around 11:30 pm and offers telescopic views of its south polar ice cap. Mercury rises an hour before the Sun and can be picked out with binoculars. Venus, the brightest planet, dominates the morning sky. Binocular (maybe) comet NEOWISE passes near M64, the Black Eye Galaxy, on Monday and near globular cluster M53 on Thursday.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 July 25 – August 1

They say it is the little things that count, and if you are counting constellations there are four little ones lined up in the southeast toward late evening. Start your search with the Summer Triangle, which is composed of the brightest star in each of three constellations: Vega in Lyra the Lyre, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Sagitta the Arrow is a distinct shape between Altair and Albireo, which is at the head of Cygnus. The arrow, poisoned with the blood of the Hydra, is one of those shot by Hercules to kill the Stymphalian birds as his sixth Labour.

Between Sagitta and Albireo is obscure Vulpecula the Fox, which at one time was two constellations called the Little Fox and the Goose. Vulpecula is known best for having the binocular object M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, within its borders. Below Sagitta is the eye-catching Delphinus the Dolphin, seen leaping out of the watery constellations that hug the horizon below. The dolphin was given its place of honour in the sky by Poseidon for convincing beautiful Amphitrite to be his wife. Below Delphinus and just off the snout of Pegasus the Flying Horse is Equuleus the Little Horse, the second smallest of the 88 constellations. Perhaps representing the foal Celeris, an offspring or brother of Pegasus, it was one of the 48 constellations included in Claudius Ptolemy’s second-century map of the sky.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:53 am and sunset will occur at 8:56 pm, giving 15 hours, 3 minutes of daylight (6:01 am and 8:59 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:01 am and set at 8:46 pm, giving 14 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (6:09 am and 8:50 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Tuesday and it spends the week sneaking up on Jupiter. Both Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky during evening twilight. Telescope users might see Jupiter’s Red Spot around 10 pm Wednesday and 11:30 pm on Friday. Just past opposition, Saturn’s rings appear brighter than usual because their icy components reflect sunlight directly toward us, a phenomenon called the Seeliger Effect. Mars has brightened to magnitude -1, and over the next couple of months it will rival Jupiter’s brilliance in the evening sky. Mercury is also brightening, making this a great week to spot it as it rises an hour and a half before the Sun. Venus, the brightest planet, dominates the morning sky. Having recently passed its closest point to the earth, comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is zipping westward by about three degrees per day and should remain a stunning sight in binoculars.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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