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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2021

Posted by Guy Pirro   08/03/2021 12:00AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2021

M30 (NGC 7099) was discovered by Charles Messier in 1764. It is located roughly 28,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Capricornus. It has an apparent magnitude of 7.7 and can be seen through a pair of binoculars. This Hubble image of M30 is composed of exposures taken in visible and infrared light. It captures the cluster’s several hundred thousand stars in stunning detail. Although globular clusters such as M30 are mainly populated by old stars, the density of the stellar swarm leads to some old stars apparently reclaiming their youth as “blue stragglers.” Using observations from Hubble, astronomers have identified two types of blue stragglers in M30 -- those that form in near head-on collisions between two stars and those that are in binary systems where one star siphons hydrogen from its companion. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: NASA, ESA]


Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2021

Welcome to the night sky report for August 2021 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In August, a flock of star-studded figures soars overhead. Look for the constellation Lyra, shaped as a small parallelogram, 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. Find a dark location to enjoy the Perseid meteors on August 11 and then check out Jupiter and Saturn all night long all month. The full moon on August 22nd is what's known as a "seasonal blue moon," as it's the third full moon out of four this season, where normally in each season there are only three. This happens every two-and-a-half to three years or as they say, "once in a blue moon." 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 soars 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 a 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 nebulas that glide through the late summer night.




August brings the best-known meteor shower of the year, the Perseids. This annual meteor shower happens each year as Earth crosses the debris trail of comet Swift-Tuttle. Most of these meteors are grains of dust up to the size of a pea and they create fabulous "shooting stars" as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere. 

Although Perseids can be seen from mid-July through late August, the most likely time to see any is a couple of days on either side of the peak. This year the peak falls on the night of August 11th, and into the pre-dawn hours of August 12th. Under really dark skies, you could see almost one per minute near the time of maximum activity. 

This year's peak night for the Perseids also benefits from a Moon that sets early in the evening, so it won't interfere with the fainter meteors. But before it sets that evening, be sure to check out the gorgeous crescent Moon in the west after sunset with the brilliant planet Venus.

To enjoy the Perseid meteor shower, find a safe, dark location away from bright city lights. Lie down or recline with your feet facing roughly toward the north and look up. The meteors appear to radiate from around the constellation Perseus, but they can streak across the sky anywhere above you.

August is the best time this year to enjoy viewing Jupiter and Saturn, as both planets reach opposition this month. "Opposition" is the term for when a planet is on the same side of the Solar System as Earth and directly opposite from the Sun. It happens each year as Earth loops around in its orbit, passing by the much slower-moving gas giant planets.

Around this time, the planet is visible from sunset to sunrise, and reaches its highest point in the sky around midnight. Opposition is also near the time Earth is closest to the planet, so this is when the planet tends to look its biggest and brightest.

Opposition does technically have a precise date when the Sun, Earth, and the planet line up. For Saturn opposition takes place this year on August 2nd. And for Jupiter, it's on August 19th.

As you're enjoying Jupiter and Saturn during August, watch as the increasingly full Moon slides beneath the pair of planets over several days from the 19th to the 22nd.

Plus, the full moon on August 22nd is what's known as a "seasonal blue moon," as it's the third full moon out of four this season, where normally in each season there are only three. This happens every two-and-a-half to three years or as they say, "once in a blue moon."

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: Scutum

NGC 6625                    Open Cluster               P196

NGC 6631                    Open Cluster               P251

NGC 6649                    Open Cluster               P197

NGC 6664                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H12-8

NGC 6694                    Open Cluster               M26

NGC 6704                    Open Cluster               P198

NGC 6705                    Open Cluster               M11 Wild Duck Cluster

NGC 6712                    Globular Cluster          Herschel 400 H47-1


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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