Summer 2014 Astronomy Videos

Check out past "Eyes on the Sky" videos from the whole year of 2014, here

To go back one season, click here to see Spring 2014 "Eyes on the Sky" astronomy videos.

A Wolf-Rayet star, and NGC 6871

Wolf-Rayet stars are young, VERY hot stars that are rapidly losing mass by blowing off huge amounts of material into space. They are also, unsurprisingly, short-lived stars, so there are not a lot of them in our galaxy to even see or study. But one of them, WR 133, is visible in an open cluster that isn't too difficult to find. There's also an interesting RS Canum Venaticorum variable star nearby in 27 Cygni, and several double stars in the mix of the open cluster itself, NGC 6871 in Cygnus. Check them out this week or over the next couple of months while the Swan is still visible in the evening sky. 

The Harvest "Super" Moon

The Harvest Moon occurs this week, and there are some interesting facts about it. One is the idea that Harvest Moons are "larger" than other full Moons. This week, the full phase technically IS larger (though only slightly!), yet an optical illusion can cause our eyes to perceive the Harvest Moon on the horizon as much larger than it actually is. Learn a trick to be able to measure the Moon and always be certain of our natural satellite's angular diameter in the sky.

A guide to a gaggle of globulars along the galactic plane

The Moon scoots along the ecliptic and points the way to quite a few globulars clusters above and below the galactic plane. This video demonstrates how our solar system is "tilted" to the galactic plane, and where many globular clusters that orbit the center of our galaxy can be found. For star maps to locate these globular clusters with a small telescope, visit the Star Charts page.

Nabbing Neptune

Despite its very long distance from Earth, Neptune is brighter than many people realize. At magnitude 7.6 this week as it reaches opposition, it is visible in most any small binoculars (7x35 or larger), plus small telescopes. This video details some information about the planet, and where you can find it in the night sky. For those looking for a more relaxed process, here is a more detailed step-by-step star hop to Neptune.

Looking for more than just ice giants? Here's how to find and observe IC 4756 and NGC 6633 from last week's Eyes on the Sky. 

More information about double stars near Neptune / Sigma Aquarii: Find and observe HD 213067 and STF 2944

IC4756 & NGC6633: Two oft-overlooked jewels of the summer sky

Two beautiful - and large! - open clusters of the night sky reside in a somewhat star-poor area of the sky. However, with a decent finderscope, both can be found easily by hopping through three constellations - Aquila, Serpens and Ophiuchus. Due to their size, wide field, "fast" focal ratio telescopes utilizing eyepieces with long focal lengths (or moderate ones with very wide apparent fields of view) are best for viewing these, short of using some of the "giant" astronomy binoculars - good 15x70, 20x80 or 25x100 binocs are also suitable.

Along the way, the double star Theta Serpentis serves not only as a guide post to the open clusters, but as a target itself! The stars may be more challenging to see in this swath of the Milky Way that contains few really bright stars from our perspective, but the time spent hunting down IC 4756 and NGC 6633 are well worth the effort. Check them out this week while the Moon revolves over on the morning side of the sky. 

For a detailed read on starhopping to IC 4756, see this link.

More information about Theta Serpentis - a double that's actually a triple star.

The Perseids peak, and four planets pair up for two conjunctions

The Perseid meteor shower is perhaps the most popular one for northern hemisphere observers. This is likely due to the warm-weather timing, despite the higher rates for winter's Geminids and Quadrantids. For some tips on getting the most out of seeing this year's shower, check out the video above, and the meteor observing tips here

Four planets then pair up almost simultaneously, but each duo is on opposite sides of the Sun. Jupiter seems to jet up towards the rapidly dropping Venus over in the morning sky. Then at the same time, Mars slides over the ecliptic underneath Saturn. It's an interesting contrast in how planets can appear along the ecliptic - check out the video above to see more on which pair is closer, and which set is a fair distance apart even at their closest.

Vesta and Ceres star chart (3.1 MB) to help you find those minor planets close to Mars and Saturn.

Finding Apollo 15's landing site - plus, Algol's "winking" in Perseus

Apollo 15 was on the Moon right around 43 years ago. And the Moon's phase this week offers up a perfect view of the area where those astronauts landed and picked up lunar soil and rock samples. One of those was the Genesis Rock.

Look early in the week, and find Eratosthenes' deeply shadowed crater, with the nearby and much shallower ringed depression Stadius. Mons Hadley is our target for locating the Apollo 15 landing site (though you won't see any hardware - it really is too far away to see that equipment). There's some more lunar features to look for here, or check out this waxing gibbous phase chart.

What else? How about some Algol eclipsing variable star events! Algol reaches minimum at 4:31 AM UTC on Wednesday morning, which is 12:31 AM EDT and 11:31 PM CDT (Tues). The star may be too low for Mountain and Pacific time zone observers. Later in the week, Algol hits minimum again at 1:20 AM Saturday morning, which is ideal for European observers to see. The next good North American opportunity to see Algol arrives at 3:00 UTC on August 29. 

NOTE! Have you seen what the Moon is doing this week?

Sagittarius: Open cluster M7, the globular M22, and the nebula M8

A LOT to see in the sky here! Sagittarius is looking in towards the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This video takes an 'outward-in' approach. First, you'll learn the naked eye stars visible in the area, including some of nearby Scorpius. Next, trace the outline of the "Teapot" asterism within Sagittarius. Though not visible directly, learn where in Sagittarius to be looking towards the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A.

After that, break out the binoculars, as Messier 7 - though technically within Scorpius - is easily found from the "spout" of the Teapot. At the "lid," learn where Messier 22 can be found, which is one of the most spectacular globular clusters in the entire night sky. Find it first with binoculars, then move on to a telescope for an even more glorious view. 

And finally, use some of those same "lid" stars to locate the Lagoon Nebula, also known as Messier 8. This emission nebula is one of the brightest in the sky, but it also is the birthplace for the stars of open cluster NGC 6530, which all appear to be superimposed on top of the nebula. It's like getting two objects to view in one! 

A pair of globulars, and a tight double

Continuing a tour of Ophiuchus finds two globular clusters nestled within the larger shape of the good doctor. Messier 12 and Messier 10 can easily be found by doing a bit of simple geometry and then pointing your telescope where the lines intersect in the sky. Skeptical? Check out this week's video and see how easy it can be - there's two globular clusters just waiting for you to observer them, so why not give it a shot? And if starhopping is more along the lines of how you prefer to observe, then a super-close double star awaits as you hop your way from Yed Prior and Yed Posterior in Ophiuchus along the way to M12 and M10.

Some sights in the serpent physician

Ophiuchus is a large constellation; learn some of the mythology behind this shape in the sky in this week's "Astronomy Theater," then find out how to locate and observe the large open cluster IC4665, a colorful double star in 70 Ophiuchi, and the second closest star to Earth after the Sun and Alpha Centauri system (Barnard's star). So... open, double, close. Sounds like a door! Let Eyes on the Sky open this one for you to these great sights in the night sky. 

Oddly shaped craters to see near full Moon

The Moon has lots of craters - and most any small telescope can show most of them that are 20km or larger in size. But how to identify them? Take a journey this week from the easily found Mare Nubium, over the Mare Humorum, and then south along the western edge and terminator side of the Moon to find a wealth of oddly-shaped and multiple-impact craters. Among those to find and observe:

  • Agatharchides
  • Gassendi
  • Lee / Doppelmayer
  • Schiller (a true "oblong" crater)
  • Hainzel
  • Clavius
  • Cabeus
...among many others, and all in less than 5 minutes! Take a look this week; though they are ordered by the ideal evening to see them, most are visible for at least a night or two afterwards if the weather is cloudy or uncooperative.

A globular and open cluster from three bright stars

Messier 6 - also known as the Butterfly Cluster - is a fairly well known open cluster; it is bright, large, and can even be seen with binoculars from most areas. But Messier 62, a globular cluster that is technically in Scutum, is actually easier to find from Scorpius. Learn how to draw a line right to this globular, and then how to extend that line over to Sagittarius to make a flip-turn back to Messier 6. 

For a free, printable star map you can use to help you find these objects, check out chart 18 on the Star Charts page.

The Lord of the Rings

Messier 57 is quite bright as planetary nebula are concerned, plus it is unlike mos other bright ones in a unique way. It's the only really bright one visible in most small telescopes that looks like a ring shape. Other planetary nebula such as the Dumbbell Nebula or Cat's Eye Nebula are also bright, but far different in shape, structure and appearance than The Ring.

So how to find it? Check out the video above. Messier 57 is pretty easy to locate, and is conveniently not far from one of the brightest stars in the entire sky, Vega. 

The stars and shapes of summer

Summertime brings warmer weather, shorter nights, but a good many objects to see in the night sky with telescopes and binoculars, not to mention a fair number of bright naked eye stars. Learn where to find the brighter shapes of the season from some familiar shapes like the Big Dipper / Plough, or the Summer Triangle region of the sky. 

And while you're out, why not check to see how many stars you can see in the sky, and report back to Globe at Night? That helps us track light pollution across the globe. 

Learn more about what to expect in the upcoming season in this week's video.