What's Up in the Night Sky?

August 2014 - Vol. 18, No. 8

Astra's Star Gate

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.

Bright blue-white Vega (Lyra) shines high overhead as it “leads” the Summer Triangle across the night sky. The “Triangle” is the summer’s most prominent asterism and is made up of three stars: Vega, the brightest, Denab (Cygnus) and Altair (Aquila). Scorpius and the bright star Antares occupy the southern sky. . Look for another famous asterism, “the teapot” (Sagittarius). The stars of constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius, embedded in the “Milky Way” (part of one of the spiral “arms” of our galaxy), are at their best this month. Summer constellations dominate the sky this month.

MERCURY is in the evening sky after the 8th of the month, this apparition favors southern observers. Venus will be in the early morning skythis month. She will be joined by Jupiter near the Beehive cluster, but this will be harder to see in the morning twilight than if the event occurred futher from the Sun's glare. JUPITER emerges from conjunction with the Sun joining Venus in the morning twilight.. MARS also marching closer to the sun, puts on a show early in the month with the Moon and the ringed planet.. SATURN is still chasing the Sun, the ringed planet sets early in the constellation on Libra.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

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. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

04 Saturn .1 deg N. of the Moon, occultation in S. India, the tip of Australia, Fiji, and Samoa.
03 Mars 2 deg S. of the Moon.
07 Venus 7 deg S. of Pollux.
08 Mercury at superior conjunction.
10 Moon at perigee may cause large tides. This is the largest or closest Moon in 2014 because the Moon is 356,896 km away from Earth.
13 Perseid Meteor Shower peaks at 0 UT, up to 100 per hour at peak. Large Moon will spoil the show for many.
14 Uranus 1.2 deg S of Moon, occultation from central Asia and Arctic locations.
18 Venus .2 deg N. of Jupiter. Venus 1.0 deg S. of Beehive cluster (M44 - Prasepe). Aldebaran 1.6 deg. S. of Moon/
20 Jupiter 1.2 deg S. of Beehive.
23 Jupiter 5 deg N. of Moon.

Venus 6 deg. N. of Moon. Moon at apogee.

27 Mercury 3 deg N. of Moon. Mars 4 deg S. of Saturn
29 Neptune at opposition.
31 Saturn .4 deg S. of Moon, occultation Eastern USA, Mexico, Carribean, parts of S. America and Africa. Neptune at opposition.

Lunar Almanac for August 2014

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Canes Venatici: Dogs of the Northern Sky

The northern sky is a dark place, far from the bright star clouds of the Milky Way. Here be dragons, bears and hunters. The northern hunters also brought their hunting dogs, in the form of a little constellation known as Canes Venatici. This constellation was introduced by Johnnes Hevelius in 1690. Visually, the constellation appears to the naked eye as two stars beneath the the handle of the "Big Dipper", the brighter of the two is known as Cor Coroli, or heart of the king. It is a 2.9 magnitude star accompanied by a 5.5 magnitude companion located about 150 light years away. This double star is very easy to detect in a small telescopeThe fainter star is called Chara, a yellow 4.3 magnitude star.

finder chart for Canes Venatici

Canes Venatici is near the north galactic pole of the Milky Way, far from the star clouds of the Milky Way. Because of its position, it is the home of many external galaxies, the brightest Messier galaxies can be located by using the finder chart above. The most famous galaxy in this part of the sky is known as M51,also known as the Whirlpool galaxy is actually a pair of interacting galaxies (NGC 5194 and 5195) that are best observed in a larger telescope, 10 inches or better. Its spiral structure was first observed by Lord Rosse using a 72-in telescope in 1845. At mag .78 it is bright enough to be seen by smaller instruments, even binoculars, but it will appear as a fuzzy patch.

M63, near an 8th mag star is tilted about 30 deg from face on, is sometimes called the Sunflower nebula. Another bright galaxy in Canes Venatici is M94, another face on spiral. this galaxy has a large central bulge and is tightly wound and will appear as a round object at a dark site. The last Messier galaxy on this chart, M106 is also a Seyfert galaxy, that emits x-rays.

Another feature of Canes Venatici is the globular star cluster M3, that is not seen in the chart above that 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. The globular M3 is found on a line between Cor Coroli and Arcturus.

The dark galactic pole must share the night with the star clouds of the northern Milky Way, that rise into the night sky just before midnight at the beginning of the month.. The bright presence of those clouds of galactic stars and dust will make it hard to find the dark galaxies of Spring as we move into Summer.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2014 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.