This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.
Spica (Virgo) glows in the SW while Regulus (Leo) vanishes over the W horizon before midnight. The "big dipper" (Ursa Major's asterism) now stands on its "handle" in the N. Antares (Scorpius) is low on the S horizon. The Eastern sky is dominated by the "summer triangle" asterism: Deneb (Cygnus), Vega (Lyra) and Altair (Aquila). An interesting star tour begins at the last star of the big dipper's handle, Alkaid. Following the curve of the handle, "arc to Arcturus". Now, following the same curve, "spike to Spica" and "continue to Corvus", its distinctive four star, kite-shaped, asterism.
MERCURY returns to the morning twilight sky, to return to the line up of morning planets, as it brightens and rises early enough to be readily visible. Once again Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (westernmost) spread across the morning sky. Unfortunately for northern observers, summer twilight is long and it may be hard to see them all. VENUS in the morning sky shines at -3.9 mag. MARS moves through Pisces this month shining at +0.5 mag by month's end. JUPITER in Pisces reaches Cetus by month's end. SATURN rises around 10 pm as the month ends. The ringed planet hits its first stationary point on the 5th and travels retrograde, heading for opposition on August 14. URANUS returns to the morning sky this month after conjunction with the Moon. NEPTUNE rises at midnight by month's end, reaching its first stationary point on the 28th.
Review how to determine Angular Measurement.
NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times or check with the U.S. Naval observatory. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.
|01||Ceres 0.1 deg. S. of Moon, occultation from Polynesia, Hawaii, continental USA, Mexico, southern edge of Canada, Caribbean, NE S. America.|
|02||Moon at apogee.|
|06||Venus at greatest heliocentric lat. S.|
|11||Venus 1.6 deg. S. of Uranus.|
|14||Moon at perigee, expect large tides.|
|16||Mercury at greatest elongation W. (23 deg.)|
|17||Mercury at greatest heliocentric lat S.|
|18||Saturn 4 deg. N. of Moon.|
|19||Vesta .7 deg. N. of Moon, occultation from Antarctica, tip of S. America, SW Africa.|
Mars at perihelion.
Jupiter 3 deg. N. of Moon.
|22||Mars 0.9 deg. N. of Moon, occultation from George V. Land, Oates Land, Marie Byrd Land, SE Polynesia.|
|24||Uranus .05 deg. N. of Moon, occultation from W and N Australia, E Indonesia, NW Melanesia, Micronesia, Hawaii.|
|26||Venus 3 deg. S. of Moon.|
|27||Mercury 4 deg. S. of Moon.|
|29||Moon at apogee.|
|Phases of the Moon||Phase and Date(s)||Best viewed before local midnight|
|Deep Space Objects|
|Planets & Moon|
|Deep Space & Planets|
Early Summer brings the constellations of Libra and Scorpius into the evening sky. The stars of Scorpius were long thought to represent the earthly scorpion, a deadly creature that carries a poisonous stinger on its tail. In the past, some astronomers used the scales of the constellation Libra to represent the claws of the scorpion. This will make all of the constellations on the ecliptic animals, thereby creating a zodiac or "circle of animals". This scorpion in mythology was sent to sting Orion, these two constellation are mortal enemies and never appear together in the sky. Scorpius must set before Orion can rise! In the Chinese culture, this area of the sky has been identified as a dragon, part of the "Azure Dragon of the East.
The stars in Libra are actually called the north and south claw. Zubeneschamali is the brightest star of the constellation, although it has the Beta designation. Its name means the "north claw". the Alpha star of Libra is Zubenelgenubi, whose name means "south claw". Zubenelgenubi is a double star that is easily separated in a pair of binoculars. It has a greenish appearence and is one of my favorite double stars in the sky.
The brightest star of Scorpius is the red giant, Antares, a star that could be a subject of the monthly topic all by itself. One of only two red giant first magnitude stars (Betelgeuse is the other) its apparent magnitude is .96 almost 1. It is a class M0.5 supergiant. Antares is so red its name means, "rival of Mars" or anti-ares. The star was also called "Cor Scorpionis" or heart of the Scorpion by the Romans. This star is also a double star, its greenish companion is only visible in telescopes larger than 6 inches when the separation favors Earth observers. There are many other well-known stars in the constellation, Beta Scorpii is a notable double star, easily separated by a small telescope. Lambda Scorpii, called Shaula, is on the list of the 50 brightest stars in the sky. Its name means "the Sting" This part of the constellation is very low on the horizon for northern observers. The entire constellation of Scorpius appears overhead in the southern hemisphere, providing a great view of some of the finest objects in the summer, er, winter sky. Shaula is a variable star with a period of about five hours, the star varies 1.59 to 1.65 so its variable nature will not be readily evident to the naked eye.
Since the constellation is near to the center of the galaxy, there are many star clusters. Two beautiful clusters, M-6 and M-7 are of the open variety. These are fine binocular objects, but they also look great in a wide field lens of a small telescope. There are also several globulars in the constellation, notably M-4, that may be the closest globular to Earth. M-4 has a bar-like structure that may be noted in small telescopes. It is an old cluster, containing many white dwarf stars. Also notable is M-80, another fine globular. There are many other objects in Scorpius, including dark nebulae. One notable star cluster is NGC-6231 that may have been cataloged by Messier if the constellation was higher in the northern sky. This cluster is surrounded with bright nebulosity that may remind one of the Pleiades. This article features only a few of a large treasury of stars, clusters, and nebulosity in the Scorpius region of the sky.
--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac
The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. Stellarium offers much more to amateur astronomers and is being used in planetariums and to guide telescopes in the field. Simple charts like the one above can be used on the internet for non-profit, illustration purposes. Proper credit is due of course! Thank you to the makers of this fine program from Astra's Star Gate.
This installment of "What's Up?" is ©2022 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.