Sky at a Glance 2020 July 4 – 11

Photo showing location of the constellation Scutum the Shield with the Wild Duck Cluster or M11 just under the the bright star Altair in Aquila the Eagle.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 July 4 – 11 ~by Curt Nason

Saturn and Jupiter are currently within the eastern boundary of Sagittarius the Archer. Sagittarius is an old constellation of a centaur with a bow and arrow aiming toward Scorpius the Scorpion. If he tries to shoot Aquila the Eagle above, chances are the arrow will be deflected by a shield.

Scutum the Shield is a relatively new constellation, created by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the late 17th century. It commemorates the Polish king John Sobieski III, who defended his country against the Turks. Originally named Scutum Sobiescianum (Sobieski’s Shield) it is generally just called the Shield. Seeing it can be difficult, for its main stars are dim and shielded within the Milky Way. One way to locate it is to find its most prominent deep sky object, the Wild Duck Cluster or M11.

Find the bright star Altair in the head of Aquila and then identify the wings and tail of the eagle. Binoculars will reveal a string of stars leading from the tail to M11 at the top of the shield. The rich Wild Duck Cluster looks good in binoculars and great in a scope, and an imaginative observer can see a V-shape or maybe two. Star cluster M26 is also in Scutum, a binocular width south of M11.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:34 am and sunset will occur at 9:12 pm, giving 15 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (5:42 am and 9:14 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:39 am and set at 9:09 pm, giving 15 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (5:47 am and 9:11 pm in Saint John). The earth is at aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun at 152, 095,295 kilometres, on Saturday morning.

The Moon is full just past midnight Sunday morning. Around 1:30 am a keen-eyed observer looking south might notice a very subtle gray shade on the upper third of the Moon, a penumbral eclipse, as the earth blocks a portion of the sunlight. At that time Jupiter will near its best for observing, just a fist-width east of the Moon, with Saturn even less distance beyond Jupiter. Mars will be low in the east but giving better views a few hours later in morning twilight. Venus is at its brightest on Friday morning, in the Hyades star cluster just above Aldebaran. Mercury rises about 40 minutes before the Sun on Friday, and with luck comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE might be visible in binoculars a fist-width above the northeastern horizon around 4:30.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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