Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2022
M57 (NGC 6720 - the Ring Nebula) is a planetary nebula -- the glowing remains of a sun-like star. The tiny white dot in the center of the nebula is the star’s hot core, called a white dwarf. M57 is about 2000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, and is best observed during August. Discovered by the French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in 1779, the Ring Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8.8 and can be spotted with moderately sized telescopes. M57 is tilted toward Earth so that astronomers see the ring face-on. Astronomers have determined that the nebula’s shape is more complicated than initially thought. The blue gas in the nebula’s center is actually a football-shaped structure seen end-on that pierces the red, doughnut-shaped material. The inner rim of the ring displays an intricate structure of dark, irregular knots of dense gas that the stellar winds have not yet been able to blow away. The knots and their tails look like spokes in a bicycle. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, the Office of Public Outreach – Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), JPL – Caltech, Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje] [Image Credit: Danny Flippo, Astromart supporter. https://astromart.com/gallery/photo/16487 )
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2022
Welcome to the night sky report for August 2022 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. The daily parade of four naked-eye planets in the mornings comes to an end this month. But there are still lots of great highlights, especially if you have access to binoculars. Plus, Saturn and Jupiter are returning to nighttime skies. 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. And August is a great month to learn an easy-to-spot constellation – Cygnus the swan. The outlook for the Perseid meteors isn't great due to a full moon on the peak night of August 12, but still it's worth keeping an eye out for early Perseids after midnight the week before. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The morning planet parade we've been enjoying the past few months comes to an end in August, with Venus and Saturn making their exits on opposite sides of the sky. But that still leaves Mars and Jupiter high overhead to enjoy.
In fact, August begins with a close conjunction of the Red Planet and distant ice giant planet Uranus. Uranus can be difficult to find without a self-guided telescope, but it's an easy object for binoculars if you know where to look. And on the 1st, you'll find the tiny, bluish disc of Uranus just northwest of Mars in the morning sky. They'll easily fit within the same field of view through binoculars.
Moving on to the morning of the 15th, you'll find the Moon only a finger's width from Jupiter. Like Mars and Uranus, they'll make a great pairing through binoculars, and you'll also likely catch a glimpse of Jupiter's four largest moons.
The Moon then works its way eastward, to join Mars on August 19th. This is another nice pairing for binoculars, plus you'll find the pair super close to the Pleiades – you may even be able to fit them all into the same view.
Moving to the evening sky, Saturn is transitioning from a late night and early morning object to an all-night sight. It's rising as night falls in August. Look low in the east around 9 p.m. to find it as a steady, yellowish point of light. You'll find that the Ringed Planet rises a bit earlier each night over the course of the month.
Saturn's at opposition this month, meaning it's directly on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. It's around this time when the Ringed Planet appears its biggest and brightest for the year.
By the end of the month, you'll start to notice Jupiter rising around 9:00 PM to join Saturn.
This means Jupiter will be pulling double duty as an early evening object, appearing in the eastern sky, and an early morning one, appearing in the west.
The 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. Cygnus is flying high in the eastern sky after dark in August. Cygnus has an overall shape like a T or cross, and contains a star pattern sometimes called "the Northern Cross."
Cygnus is anchored by its brightest star, Deneb, which represents the swan's tail. Deneb is the northernmost of the three stars in the Summer Triangle, and it's visible even in bright city skies. On the other end of Cygnus from Deneb is double star Albireo, which is a stargazing favorite, as it shows beautiful blue and gold colors through even the most modest telescope.
Cygnus lies right along the plane of the Milky Way, so it's dense with glittering stars and dark dust clouds, with lots of interest for telescope observers and astrophotographers to enjoy, including the North America Nebula, the Veil Nebula, and the Blinking Planetary Nebula. It also includes the open star clusters M29 and M39, which are visible with binoculars.
However you're observing the sky where you live, August is a great time to discover the constellation Cygnus, the graceful swan soaring across the dusty lanes of the Milky Way.
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.
The Perseid meteors are an annual event many of us skywatchers look forward to, as they often produce lots of shooting stars to enjoy. Unfortunately, this year all but the brightest Perseids will be washed out by a full moon on the peak night of August 12.
So, this is probably not the year to make a special trip in order to see the Perseids, but, if you find yourself outside between midnight and dawn on Aug. 13th, don't forget to look up anyway. Because you never know – you might just catch one of the bright Perseid meteors that defies the glare of the Moon. And don't forget the occasional early Perseid can streak across the sky as much as a week beforehand.
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."
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
NGC 7099 Globular Cluster M30
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
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
NGC 6720 Planetary Nebula M57 Ring Nebula
NGC 6779 Globular Cluster M56
NGC 6791 Open Cluster P162
IC 4997 Planetary Nebula P246
NGC 6838 Globular Cluster M71
NGC 6879 Planetary Nebula P181
NGC 6886 Planetary Nebula P247
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
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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