This Week’s Sky at a Glance

July 20 – July 27

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 5:48 and sunset will occur at 9:02, giving 15 hours, 14 minutes of daylight (5:56 and 9:04 in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:56 and set at 8:54, giving 14 hours, 58 minutes of daylight (6:03 and 8:57 in Saint John).

The Moon is full this Sunday, rising near Saturn late Wednesday and reaching third quarter just before midnight next Saturday. By midweek Venus sets 45 minutes after sunset, followed by Mercury 20 minutes later. Mercury is dimming and becoming more difficult to see with binoculars, but it is still brighter than Regulus half a binocular field above it. Over the week Mars slides between the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters, with bright Jupiter to their left.
 
On Sunday evening at 8 pm tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at [email protected].


July 13 – July 20

Constellations are not the only stellar figures in the night sky. Any imaginative figure seen that is not one of the 88 constellations is called an asterism. The Big Dipper in Ursa Major and the Sagittarius Teapot are two of the most prominent. Others require binoculars or a telescope, such as the Coathanger and ET star clusters. Near the eastern shoulder of Ophiuchus binoculars will show a large V shape resembling the Hyades cluster, and star maps of a few centuries ago labelled this as the constellation Poniatowski’s Bull. One I read about in Sky & Telescope magazine a few years ago is a smiley face in Cygnus the Swan. Scan with binoculars just below the swan’s right (western) wing near the brightest star in that wing, and look for a pair of eyes above a semicircle grin of five stars. You will probably smile back.

This summer, spend some time scanning the night sky randomly and let your imagination run wild. Pareidolia is a phenomenon in which your mind sees a familiar pattern where none exists. Just as we imagine figures in clouds by day, we can imagine them in the stars at night.

This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:41 and sunset will occur at 9:08, giving 15 hours, 27 minutes of daylight (5:49 and 9:10 in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:48 and set at 9:02, giving 15 hours, 14 minutes of daylight (5:56 and 9:04 in Saint John).

The first quarter Moon approaches Spica in Virgo Saturday evening, setting around the time it occults that star. It is near Antares in Scorpius on Wednesday. By midweek Venus sets 40 minutes after sunset, followed by Mercury half an hour later, and both should be a fairly easy target with binoculars. Saturn rises before midnight this week and telescope users will notice that its rings are at a much shallower angle than in recent years. Mars and Jupiter, along with Aldebaran, the Hyades and the Pleiades, make a beautiful scene low in the east that is worth rolling out of bed before 4:30. This scene only gets better over the month.
 
On Sunday evening at 8 pm tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at [email protected].