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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2019

Posted by Guy Pirro   08/04/2019 09:51PM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2019

The Ring Nebula (NGC 6720, M57) has a distinctive shape that makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books. But new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of the glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sun-like star reveal a new twist -- The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather like a jelly doughnut, because it is filled with material in the middle. 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 nebula is tilted toward Earth so that astronomers see the ring face-on. In the Hubble image, the blue structure is the glow of helium. Radiation from the white dwarf star, the white dot in the center of the ring, is exciting the helium to glow. The white dwarf is the stellar remnant of a sun-like star that has exhausted its hydrogen fuel and has shed its outer layers of gas to gravitationally collapse to a compact object. In this composite image, visible light observations by the Hubble Space Telescope are combined with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona to assemble a dramatic view of this beautiful Planetary Nebula. (Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI) (Image Credit: NASA, ESA).



Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2019

Welcome to the night sky report for August 2019 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In August, look for the constellation Lyra, which points to Epsilon Lyrae and the Ring Nebula. You can also spot three bright summer stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, which form the Summer Triangle. This month, the main focus for meteor watchers is the Perseid meteor shower, but you will have to contend with a bright Moon on the peak nights. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.


Warm August nights offer fine opportunities for stargazing, as a flock of star-studded figures soar overhead.


In the southeast lies Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky. The Greeks made Vega the anchor of the small constellation Lyra, the lyre of Orpheus. Lyra’s main pattern is a small parallelogram that marks the strings of the instrument.


Alongside Lyra sits Epsilon Lyrae, also known as the Double Double, a point of light consisting of two orbiting pairs of white stars. Between the bottom two stars of the parallelogram is the Ring Nebula. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals stunning details of this planetary nebula, a glowing shell of gas expelled by a dying star. The remnant core of the star—now a small, hot white dwarf—sits in the center of the shell, providing radiant energy that makes the gas glow. Our own sun may end its life this way in about 6 billion years.


To the east of Lyra we find a second bright star: Deneb, a distant blue-white supergiant. Deneb marks the tail of Cygnus the swan. Marking the head of Cygnus is Albireo, a showpiece double star for small telescopes.


Just south of the head of Cygnus lies a small pattern called Vulpecula, the fox. Vulpecula hosts the Dumbbell Nebula, another planetary nebula. The Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared view shows the expanding cloud of gas heated by the central remnant star—now a white dwarf. Astronomers think that the dumbbell shape of this nebula could be caused by the presence of a second star at the center. Eventually the expelled gas of the nebula will dissipate into surrounding space, leaving only the white dwarf and its possible companion behind.


To the south of Lyra and Cygnus lies another bright star of summer: Altair. Altair marks the neck of Aquila the eagle. Just off the end of Aquila’s outstretched tail lies an open star cluster. Known as the Wild Duck Cluster, early observers thought it resembled a flock of ducks flying in a roughly V-shaped formation.


Taken together, the three bright summer stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair form the Summer Triangle. Use the Summer Triangle as a guide to the stars and nebulae that glide through the late summer night.






This month, the main focus for meteor watchers is the Perseid meteor shower. The best known meteors of the year, the Perseids, are back, but will have to contend with a bright Moon on the peak nights. Still, you could see a dozen or more meteors per hour, including the occasional very bright meteor, also called a fireball.

The meteors in this shower are particles left behind in the debris trail of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. This 16-mile-wide, icy dustball orbits the Sun every 133 years. It last swept through the inner solar system in 1992 and will return in the year 2126.

Earth passes through part of this trail of debris every year, creating the meteor shower as tiny pieces of comet debris collide with our atmosphere and burn up.

The best viewing this year will be on the mornings of August 12th and 13th, in the last couple of hours before dawn. The Moon will be nearly full during this time, so you'll have a better chance to see meteors when the Moon is low in the west, or the brief period after it sets.

For the best meteor watching, face toward the east and look up. The Perseids generally appear to radiate from a point here, a bit to the left of the Pleiades star cluster, but they can appear pretty much anywhere on the sky.

It's important to find a spot away from bright lights and give your eyes a little time to adjust to the darkness. Try to avoid looking at your bright phone screen too. You'll see more meteors that way.

And although you're more likely to see meteors at the shower's peak, you should also be able to spot a few any night the week before. Just know that the Moon's brightness will wash out most of the fainter Perseids this year.

In planet spotting, this month the Moon pairs up with Jupiter in the evening sky of August 9th. It then visits with Saturn on August 11th.






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 Gamma Cygni Nebular Cluster

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: Equuleus



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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