This Week’s Sky at a Glance, August 4 – August 11

After twilight look for orange Antares in the heart of Scorpius between Jupiter and Saturn. 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 orbit the centre of our galaxy, which is in the direction where Saturn currently resides. Therefore, these clusters abound in the Sagittarius-Scorpius-Ophiuchus region of our sky and many can be seen in binoculars as a fat, fuzzy star.

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 6:04 am and sunset will occur at 8:44 pm, giving 14 hours, 40 minutes of daylight (6:12 am and 8:47 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:13 am and set at 8:34 pm, giving 14 hours, 21 minutes of daylight (6:20 am and 8:37 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Saturday, August 4 and it is new the following Saturday, giving a dark sky for meteor watching. Mercury is at inferior conjunction, between Earth and the Sun, on Tuesday and it will be well placed for morning observing toward the end of the month. Venus sets at 10:15 mid-week, when Saturn is at its highest in the south, and Jupiter sets around midnight. Mars looks brilliant to the naked eye but a global dust storm continues to obscure much of its telescopic treasures. The Perseid meteor shower peaks late next weekend but start watching a few nights before then.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on August 4 at 7 pm. All are welcome. The RASC NB star party at Mactaquac Provincial Park takes place next weekend, August 10-11.

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

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