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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2018

Posted by Guy Pirro   07/26/2018 12:15AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2018

In this composite image, visible-light observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are combined with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona to assemble a dramatic view of the well-known Ring Nebula (M57, NGC 6720). The distinctive shape of the Ring Nebula makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books. Observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show a glowing gas shroud surrounding an old, dying, sun-like star. The Ring Nebula is about 2000 light-years from Earth and measures roughly 1 light-year across. Located in the constellation Lyra, the nebula is a popular target for amateur astronomers. The outer rings of the nebula were formed when fast moving gas slammed into slower-moving material. The nebula is expanding at more than 43,000 miles an hour, but the center is moving faster than the expansion of the main ring. The Ring Nebula will continue to expand for another 10,000 years or so and will become fainter and fainter until it merges with the interstellar medium. (Credits: NASA and the Office of Public Outreach - STScI). (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) – ESA / Hubble Collaboration)



Welcome to the night sky report for August 2018 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Mid-month, the Perseid meteor shower—an always-anticipated feature of the August night sky—will peak. Backyard telescopes will also reveal sunlight reflecting off the clouds of Venus’s thick atmosphere and the Ring Nebula, an expanding shell of glowing gas in the constellation Lyra. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

Bright Venus hangs low in the western sky at nightfall. A backyard telescope reveals the sunlight reflecting off the clouds of Venus’s thick atmosphere. Jupiter, largest of the planets, shines in the southwest. On the 15th, Jupiter, Venus, and the crescent moon form a beautiful arc in the sky. A small telescope reveals Jupiter’s major cloud bands.


In the southeast, Mars and Saturn shine on either side of Sagittarius. Telescope views show two very different planets -- One a gas giant with rings… The other is a much smaller terrestrial, or Earth-like, world.


Stargazing on a hot August night reveals a multitude of wonders. Lyra, the Small Harp, lies high in the late evening sky. Its main star is the great Vega, one of the brightest in the sky. Look for Lyra by locating Vega and then the parallelogram of stars nearby. Epsilon Lyrae, the bright star near Vega, is actually a wonderful quadruple star system, known as the Double-Double. In the parallelogram of Lyra lies the dramatic Ring Nebula. It is an expanding shell of glowing gas expelled by the dying star at its center.


The great constellation Cygnus, the Swan, flies high through the August night. Using bright Vega as your guide star, look for the cross just to the east. Cygnus is also known as the Northern Cross. Albireo, at the head of the Swan, is a showpiece for small telescopes. This spectacular pair of stars features contrasting colors of sapphire and golden topaz. Deneb, the Swan’s tail, is a supergiant star. If Deneb replaced the Sun in the center of our solar system, it would engulf Mercury and Venus.


On a clear night, hazy patches of nebulae can be seen by casually panning across the Cygnus area with binoculars. The most prominent is the North America Nebula, an area of gas and dust illuminated by the nearby, brilliant star Deneb.


Cygnus also hosts several clusters of stars. The easiest to find are M29 and M39. M29 is found near the center of the Northern Cross. When viewed in a small telescope, it resembles a small square. Best seen in binoculars, M39 is a loosely bound cluster of about 30 stars, just to the north of Deneb.


Just south of Cygnus lies the small constellation Vulpecula, the Little Fox, first charted by Polish

astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century. Vulpecula hosts the Dumbbell Nebula, which can be seen as a faint smudge in binoculars. A small telescope reveals its double-lobed shape.


Aquila, the Eagle, was known to the ancient Greeks as the great bird of Zeus. Altair, the brightest star in Aquila, is only 16 light-years from Earth. The bright stars of the summer night sky, Vega, Altair, and Deneb, make up the Summer Triangle. Use binoculars to look for the Coathanger, located halfway between Altair and Albireo. This remarkable little group of stars forms a familiar pattern from our point of view.


Comet Giacobini-Zinner may become visible this month as it approaches the Sun in its 6 and a half year orbit. Its path will take it past Cassiopeia and Perseus during August, and then past Auriga in early September. Use binoculars to look for its fuzzy glowing head and short, dim tail.






On August 11, skywatchers in remote northern Canada and Russia will be able to witness a partial solar eclipse as the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. Shortly after, the Perseid meteor shower -- an always anticipated feature of the August night sky – will peak. Look for meteors during the early morning hours of August 12 and 13. With the Moon out of the way, the sky will be dark, and several dozen meteors per hour may be seen under good conditions.


The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.



The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."


Constellation: Aquila

NGC 6709                    Open Cluster               P1

NGC 6724                    Open Cluster               P205

NGC 6735                    Open Cluster               P206

NGC 6738                    Open Cluster               P18

NGC 6741                    Planetary Nebula        P207 Phantom Streak Nebula

NGC 6755                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H19-7

NGC 6756                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H62-7

NGC 6760                    Globular Cluster          P19

NGC 6781                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H743-3

NGC 6790                    Planetary Nebula        P208

NGC 6803                    Planetary Nebula        P209

NGC 6840                    Open Cluster               P124

NGC 6843                    Open Cluster               P125


Constellation: Capricornus

NGC 7099                    Globular Cluster          M30                  


Constellation: Cygnus

IC 1318                        Diffuse Nebula                        P24 Gamma Cygni Nebula

IC 1369                        Open Cluster               P11

IC 4996                        Open Cluster               P16

IC 5067                                    Diffuse Nebula                        P79 Pelican Nebula

     - IC 5070                 Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P79

IC 5117                        Planetary Nebula        P223

IC 5146                        Open Cluster               C19 Cocoon Nebular Cluster

NGC 6811                    Open Cluster               P10 Hole Cluster

NGC 6819                    Open Cluster               P12

NGC 6826                    Planetary Nebula        C15, Herschel 400 H73-4 Blinking Planetary Nebula

NGC 6834                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H16-8

NGC 6866                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H59-7

NGC 6871                    Open Cluster               P9

NGC 6874                    Open Cluster               P142

NGC 6883                    Open Cluster               P17

NGC 6888                    Diffuse Nebula                        C27 Crescent Nebula

NGC 6910                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H56-8

NGC 6913                    Open Cluster               M29

NGC 6914                    Diffuse Nebula                        P143

NGC 6960                    Diffuse Nebula                        C34 Veil Nebula (West)

NGC 6989                    Open Cluster               P144

NGC 6992                    Diffuse Nebula                        C33 Veil Nebula (East)

     - NGC 6995             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of C33

NGC 6996                    Open Cluster               P224

NGC 6997                    Open Cluster               P145

NGC 7000                    Diffuse Nebula                        C20, Herschel 400 H37-5 North America Nebula

NGC 7008                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H192-1

NGC 7024                    Open Cluster               P146

NGC 7026                    Planetary Nebula        P147

NGC 7027                    Planetary Nebula        P25

NGC 7031                    Open Cluster               P148

NGC 7037                    Open Cluster               P225

NGC 7039                    Open Cluster               P13

NGC 7044                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H24-6

NGC 7048                    Planetary Nebula        P226

NGC 7062                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H51-7

NGC 7063                    Open Cluster               P14

NGC 7067                    Open Cluster               P149

NGC 7071                    Open Cluster               P227

NGC 7082                    Open Cluster               P15

NGC 7086                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H32-6

NGC 7092                    Open Cluster               M39

NGC 7127                    Open Cluster               P150

NGC 7128                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H40-7

NGC 7175                    Open Cluster               P151


Constellation: Delphinus

NGC 6891                    Planetary Nebula        P152

NGC 6905                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H16-4 Blue Flash Nebula

NGC 6934                    Globular Cluster          C47, Herschel 400 H103-1

NGC 7006                    Globular Cluster          C42, Herschel 400 H52-1


Constellation: Lyra

NGC 6720                    Planetary Nebula        M57 Ring Nebula

NGC 6779                    Globular Cluster          M56

NGC 6791                    Open Cluster               P162


Constellation: Sagitta

IC 4997                        Planetary Nebula        P246

NGC 6838                    Globular Cluster          M71

NGC 6879                    Planetary Nebula        P181

NGC 6886                    Planetary Nebula        P247


Constellation: Vulpecula

NGC 6802                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H14-6 Coat Hanger Cluster

NGC 6823                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H18-7

NGC 6830                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H9-7

NGC 6853                    Planetary Nebula        M27 Dumbell Nebula

NGC 6882                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H22-8

NGC 6885                    Open Cluster               C37, Herschel 400 H20-8

NGC 6940                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H8-7



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