Sunday August 09
The heart of our Milky Way Galaxy is on show tonight after sunset. All you need to enjoy a great night of astronomy is a pair of binoculars, a reasonably dark sky, and you’ll be astonished at how rich our galaxy is in stars and deep sky objects. The section between and around Scorpius and Sagittarius are stunning in low-power (7x or 10x) binoculars. You’ll see incredibly rich star fields, open and globular clusters, bright and dark nebulae throughout the area.
Monday August 10
The diminutive little bear, Ursa Minor, is standing almost straight up tonight as the sky darkens. Its brightest star is Polaris, our North Star. See if you can pick out the other stars in the constellation, as they are easiest to see like this. Ursa Minor is also called The Little Dipper, and is flanked by Ursa Major (the great bear) containing the Big Dipper asterism and Cassiopeia. Watch as the Big Dipper glides down toward the horizon, and Cassiopeia rises in the northeast.
Tuesday August 11
This is a great year to view the Perseid Meteor Shower, as the Moon will be absent almost all night. The best time will be after midnight. Get a comfortable chair, bundle up, have a warm drink at hand, sit back and let your eyes adjust to the dark skies. Looking northeast, the radiant (shown at left; where the shooting stars appear to emanate from) is above Perseus and below Cassiopeia. Expect up to 50 or more meteors per hour in northern latitudes. This meteor shower is among the best each year, so don’t miss it!
Wednesday August 12
Canis Minor’s brightest star Procyon is on the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise this morning. Nearby, slightly north, a 27.5-day-old waxing crescent Moon shows the slimmest of slivers, at only 4% illumination, and ruddy Mars glows red another new degrees to the north. Above them all, Castor and Pollux mark Gemini’s rising and the coming of fall and winter.
Thursday August 13
Among the closest, at 1,360 light years distant, and brightest example of a planetary nebula is the Dumbbell in the small constellation Vulpecula, between Cygnus and Aquila. At magnitude 7.5, it is easily viewed in even small binoculars. It is easy to locate about midpoint between Deneb and Altair, or you can draw an imaginary parallelogram using Cygnus’ stars, and place the Dumbbell where the missing star would be. Its apparent size is an elongated 8×5.5 arcminutes. Use an filter to bring out its shape, which will appear somewhat like an apple core.
Friday August 14
Saturday August 15
Here is a fun project for a few hours on a new moon weekend Saturday night. Six Messier Object globular clusters, in one constellation; Ophiuchus. This constellation is the richest in this type of deep sky object, which seem to congregate around the plane of the Milky Way and especially the galactic bulge, located near M19 in this image. Note the variety of size and shape. If you find this type of project is to your liking, the Astronomical League offers a Globular Cluster observing program. Check it out!