Click here to go ahead to Autumn 2012, or click here to go back to Spring 2012 "Eyes on the Sky" astronomy videos.
The Lunar "X" is a feature visible only for about 4 hours or so around First Quarter Moon, and not from all parts of the world either. September favors eastern North American and western Europe for seeing the Lunar "X" - Eyes on the Sky details how to find and see it.
Uranus is not a naked eye planet from most areas, but it is bright enough to be observed with just binoculars from most light polluted locations. Learn how to star hop to our solar system's seventh planet over the next four weeks.
Uranus finder chart here. 3.4 MB, PDF format.
Ophiuchus is a large constellation above Scorpius and below Hercules. But what do we really know about this "Serpent Bearer"? "Eyes on the Sky's" Astronomy Theater gives you an overview of the mythology of Ophiuchus - with it's trademark humor, of course. In the sky, the constellation's brightest star Rasalhague makes a good jumping-off point to make your way counter-clockwise around the constellations stars to find deep sky objects within it. IC4665, a nice open cluster, along with M10 and M12, two globular clusters, are just a few of the stops to make within this area of sky.
Early in the week, the Moon and Venus are in Cancer the Crab early in the morning hours, right near Messier 44 (or the Praesepe). For the weekend, the "Beehive Cluster" (as it is also known) can still be found easily near the bright planet.
Find Star Chart #12 here for more on Ophiuchus.
The star Albireo in Cygnus is one of the finest double stars in the sky. It's not hard to find, being located inside the "Summer Triangle," and it also makes a great starting point to find several other deep sky objects like the Coathanger Cluster and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. These objects and more are visible in either binoculars or a small telescope. Look in the lower left corner of Star Chart #6 to find them all.
The Moon makes a close pass by Jupiter late this week, and our solar system's largest planet rises in the hour just before midnight - though it is better place in the hours afterwards.
Over 700 stars have been found to have planets revolving around them. This is a fairly recent development too, as we really only discovered how to find planets around other stars by indirect methods about 20 or so years ago. With the Kepler mission, we've discovered hundreds more, but even then, only in a small section of sky. Many of these stars are dim, but fortunately some of the stars that we know harbor planets are bright enough to see naked eye. Let Eyes on the Sky help you find three of those stars, which should be naked eye from most areas. You'll have to know how to measure some simple distances in the sky, though.
Unlike planets around stars, for millenia man has seen a "Man in the Moon" based on the darker maria and lighter highland areas. We have perhaps gotten a little more creative with what we see up there - check out some of the shapes visible on the full Moon this week. And while you're at it, don't forget to wink at the Moon too.
For a chart of some large, visible features on the moon you can see with binoculars or a small telescope, see this link below.
The Moon is the best place to view detail on a celestial object because 1) It's close and 2) it's close! And the best way to do that is by using higher magnification aimed at areas along the terminator, the line where the shadows from sunlight are strongest. Craters have 3-D like depth, mountains appear to rise to dizzying heights, and even subtle features are revealed. Check out the craters Langrenus, Hercules, Atlas, Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina this week as the terminator edges slowly westward across the face of the Moon.
On August 24, Neptune reaches opposition with Earth, placing it at it's closest point to us this year. The 7.9 magnitude planet will require binoculars at minimum to spot it, but that may be ALL that is required, as even 7x35 or 8x42 binoculars can display 8th and 9th magnitude objects. Be sure to check out the July 9 thru 15 Eyes on the Sky video for a primer on how to more easily find this planet. Just keep in mind that Capricornus and Aquarius will be further towards the west at this time of year than last month - see the Star Charts page and click on the All Sky map to see where it is now (be sure to set it for your latitude and longitude). Then download the finder chart below to "hop" your way from Deneb Algiedi, to Iota Aquarii, then on to Neptune. It's really not as hard as you may think.
The Milky Way galaxy is the home to our solar system, Sun, and the millions of other stars that we can see in the night sky. But knowing where we actually ARE in the Milky Way isn't necessarily easily understood, so... I used a pizza to illustrate it! (And it tasted good for dinner too.) As we look into the 'center of the pizza' we find the stars and other deep sky objects of Sagittarius, which are many, varied, and often stunning in binoculars or small telescopes. Learn how to find M7 (technically in Scorpius, but near Sagittarius), Messier 28 and Messier 22.
By mid-week, both Mercury and Venus reach greatest elongations, which - being inferior planets inside Earth's orbit - are at their highest points above the horizon before moving back down towards it again. Mercury can be elusive in the morning twilight, so use the Moon to see it mid-week, or by drawing a line through the bright Jupiter and Venus earlier or later on. Neptune is nearing opposition and Mars and Saturn are at their closest approach this year as well. See what's up in the night sky every week with "Eyes on the Sky," astronomy made easy.
Here is where you can find Star Chart #18, which is mentioned in this video.
Cassiopeia is nicely placed in the northeastern, evening sky this time of year, and contains some imagination-inducing open clusters such as NGC457 and NGC663. Both area easily seen with a small telescope at around 75x magnification. Just off one of the points of her "W" shape is an extraordinarily distant star that you may be able to see naked eye from darker areas, but easily with binoculars from most any city or suburban location. On the 12/13 of August, the Perseid meteor shower peaks, which is the best "warm weather" major meteor shower every year. Grab a chair and spot some "shooting stars" this coming weekend - it's a great family event that anyone can do; no telescope or binoculars required!
Download a free Cassiopeia star chart (look for Chart 1), and a lowercase Greek alphabet chart here.
If you'd like to know how make the most of the Perseids, here is more information about meteor shower observing.
Scorpius is right about on the meridian just as the sky gets dark, and you can easily spot the globular cluster Messier 4 along with double stars Omega 1 & 2, Beta Scorpii and Nu Scorpii, just by using binoculars or small telescope. Download the star chart below to find those objects and more. The Moon is full on the night of August 1 (U.S.), but there are craters to be seen on the nights before and after that time. Plus, small telescopes in the 60mm to 80mm aperture range are ideal for viewing the Moon because it is so bright, and excessive aperture often isn't needed. See the Moon map below to find some out-of-the way craters on the eastern and western limbs of the Moon. And, don't miss how to find Saturn and Mars in the evening sky, or Jupiter and Venus in the morning sky.
Mars is very obviously moving eastward compared to the much more sedate Saturn, which appears stuck near Spica. Observe the Red Planet with binoculars night-to-night as it rolls away from the extremely difficult double star Porrima in Virgo. Passing underneath the planets in the southwestern evening sky is the waxing Moon, moving from crescent phase to gibbous phase over the course of the week. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, check out some of the lunar features you can spot with small telescopes like the craters Copernicus, Eratosthenes, and Plato, or the Appenine and Caucasus mountain ranges. The best time to see these on the Moon will be this upcoming weekend, as the terminator shadow line helps them pop out into stark relief.
Cygnus is high overhead in the summer months, and is easy to find being located in the well-known - and easily seen - Summer Triangle asterism. With the Milky Way coursing right through the constellation, there are numerous objects to find and see here like the far off Omicron Cygni and Sigma Cygni, or the very neary by 61 Cygni. "Eyes on the Sky" shows you sights in the Swan that are easily seen from most any location - you can do astronomy even from cities and suburbs. So grab your binoculars or small telescope, and take a look at what YOU can see overhead in the sky, tonight! Later in the week, don't miss the slim crescent Moon hopping its way towards Mars and Saturn in the southwestern evening sky.
Need a star chart with all of the stars in the video above? No problem! Download the free star chart #7 here, and if you aren't familiar with lowercase Greek letters, this Greek alphabet chart may be helpful as well. Get out there and enjoy the universe!
Since Mercury, the solar system's innermost planet, was featured last week, why not go "all out" and look for the furthest planet? Okay! That's where this video will take you: Step by step from first magnitude stars, all the way down to the 7.9 magnitude 8th planet itself. This week and next will ideal, as the Moon will be revolving more towards the Sun in the morning, paving the way for a dark sky. You will just have to provide the optics, and with any luck, the atmosphere will provide you with the transparency. See if you can spot Neptune this week! It is not as hard as you might think - just don't expect anything more than a tiny blue dot.
Click here for the NEPTUNE FINDER CHART (3.9MB - PDF format); shows the position of Neptune from now through August 15, 2012.
Later in the week, don't miss the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, Aldebaren and the Moon, or the all-week-long motion of Mars at it speeds it's way towards Saturn. You can literally watch the motion change from night to night - check it out!
Mercury should be a planet everyone has seen: It's bright, can be seen naked eye, and is often near the Moon or other bright objects in the sky. Yet few amateur astronomers - and even fewer non-astronomers - have seen this planet. Why? Well, it never strays far from the Sun, for one, and is therefore harder to see in twilight. However, there are ways to find it more easily, and this week, "Eyes on the Sky" shows you how.
Also, the Moon is full on July 3rd, but that doesn't mean there aren't still things to see - namely, the Moon itself! Check out the craters along the terminator. And finally, don't miss the motions of Mars moving away from Beta Virginis, or Venus moving towards Aldebaran. "Eyes on the Sky" shows you where and when to look for these fascinating - and easy to see - phenomena in the night sky.
Click her to find Moon Mappers at Cosmoquest.
Lyra is a small constellation, and if not for the magnitude zero star Vega, it might be harder to spot and more overlooked each summer. While exploring this small area of sky comprising part of the Summer Triangle, take a moment to recall the mythology of why the lyre shape is in the heavens (Orpheus - and see the video above for "Astronomy Theatre's" take on this). Several easy binocular and telescopic targets are within it's borders, and there is a handy Lyra star chart below. This is a great area of sky for beginners of astronomy to peruse, even from city and suburban locations with heavy to medium light pollution. The majority of stars may be dim, but they are so close to Vega, they are all easy to find in finderscopes or binoculars.
And throughout the week, the Moon returns to the evening skies making stops at Mars, Saturn and Antares. Find out when and where to see these find conjunctions, along with some fantastic early evening - and early morning - trios of stars and planets that are hugging the horizon.
Lyra constellation chart: CLICK HERE (7.4 MB)
Summer may bring longer days, allowing us more time to observe and photograph the Sun, but that also means shorter nights. However, though diminished in length, the sights they display is certainly different than winter's offerings, and besides, it's warmer at night! This makes for more comfortable conditions to learn the summer sky, which this video walks the viewer through, step by step. Beginning with the rising Summer Triangle in the east, see how you can find many bright stars even from city locations, and discover a dozen summer constellations and where the Milky Way galaxy bisects the sky - a perfect location for perusing with binoculars. Easy for anyone to learn - even if you are just starting out learning the sky and want to know more, or are a casual stargazer.
Click here to go ahead to Autumn 2012, or click here to go back to Spring 2012 "Eyes on the Sky" astronomy videos.