Galactic Weapons Embrace August Nights – Greeley Tribune
Observing the night sky in August is one of those rare activities that can really tear you down as it inspires enlightenment, profound realizations and the thrill that comes with knowing your existential and eternal connection to the universe.
The easiest way for the skygazer to begin the path to understanding the fundamentals of the universal interconnectedness is to simply look directly at the zenith under a clear, dark sky around 9 p.m. each August night. Here, the Milky Way stretches below the northeastern horizon and just above before plunging below the southern skyline. From the constellations Perseus to Sagittarius, the galaxy hugs the sky with vast star clouds and billions of suns.
For the ultimate skywatching experience, spend a few nights at some of Colorado’s best dark sky hideaways. Visit colorado.com/articles/15-places-stargaze-colorado for ideas. Note: Attempting to watch Skywatch at a Red Rocks, Morrison concert is not recommended by this reporter.
The Milky Way is the original source, the cradle of everything that is and was on earth and in the solar system. Current opinion is that the shock wave from a supernova struck dense, filamentous clouds of molecular hydrogen, causing them to collapse to form the sun, planets, and so on.
The star birth process is still ongoing and you can see it for yourself. Point a telescope due south at the teapot-shaped constellation Sagittarius, the hippocentaur archer, which will reach (culminate) its highest point in the sky of the year at 9 p.m. on August 20. Located a few degrees west of the Teapot Knob — between the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and globular cluster M28 — you’ll find the emission and reflection nebula NGC 6559 showering the interstellar medium with thousands of beautiful, hot new stars.
Due to its location near the intersection of three main Galactic arms near the Galactic Center, Sagittarius is one of the densest and therefore most fascinating regions of the sky along with Scorpio. The Sagittarius Starcloud, the brightest region of the Barred Galaxy, is part of its central bulge and easily identified by its dark Great Rift. Take your time here to revel in the diverse nebulae, globular star clusters and bare starry skies. There are a few small galaxies within the constellation boundaries, but they are faint, distant fuzzies and constantly below the horizon for skygazers at 40 degrees N.
Sagittarius is extraordinarily rich in celestial wonders, but the downside is that they are close to/below the horizon and sometimes have poor vision due to disturbances in the layers of the atmosphere.
This is not the case for the mid-latitude constellation of Aquila, the eagle, at the celestial equator, bathed in the background star clouds of the Milky Way. Peaking on the north-south meridian at 9:00 p.m. on August 30, the eagle is excellently positioned for stargazing with binoculars and small telescopes. Although Aquila is home to planetary nebulae and globular star clusters (both so named because of their apparent spherical shape in early telescopes), Aquila is primarily impressive for the beauty of the asterism’s components themselves.
A random selection of the stars of Aquila proves it. 15 Aquilae, an optical double of an orange giant with a violet secondary, is easily separated in amateur scopes. R Aquilae, a red giant 400 times the diameter of the Sun, varies in brightness by about 2.5 magnitudes during its long pulsations. Eta Aquilae and FF Aquilae are both variable yellow-white supergiants that oscillate between min/max brightness, diameters, and temperatures for less than a week.
The constellation Lyra, the Kithara of Orpheus, is a small but impressive constellation. Lyra’s brilliant alpha star Vega, culminating at 21:00 on August 15, is just a few degrees east of its zenith, making it an excellent target for all kinds of celestial adventures, including astrophotography. A moderate telescope will reveal the famous planetary Ring Nebula, a star that is shedding its outer layers of gas before slowly ‘dying’ as a cooling, non-melting stellar core known as a white dwarf.
Vega, thought of as a falling eagle/vulture by the ancient Arabs, Romans, Egyptians and Native Americans, is interesting in and of itself for several reasons. The fifth brightest star in the night sky, Vultur Cadens forms the Summer Triangle along with the bird constellations Altair of Aquila and Deneb of Cygnus the Swan. The vulture was around 12,000 BC. of the North Poles and due to the precession of the Earth’s axis of rotation will again be the North Star, beginning around the year 13,727.
The Summer Triangle has only been recognized as such since 1913, and was dubbed the Navigator’s Triangle by USAF navigators in the mid-20th century. However, the same three stars have been part of a classic Chinese folk tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, for at least 2,600 years.
This guide for skygazers would be neglecting its duty if it were to neglect the most important advance in astronomy since Galileo’s breakthroughs in modern science and observational astronomy. As the golden age of astronomy kicks into high gear with the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers and skygazers now have the most powerful space telescope in history to study the Universe, its primordial hydrogen reionization, and the earliest galaxies in its infancy .
The Perseid meteor shower peaks overnight on August 11-12. The full moon will wash out all but the brightest meteors into the early hours. The moon is full on August 11 at 7:35 p.m. and is called the sturgeon full moon.
https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/07/30/skywatchers-guide-galactic-arms-embrace-augusts-nights/ Galactic Weapons Embrace August Nights – Greeley Tribune