Sky at a Glance August 3 – 10

Photo of the constellation Aquila with the bright star Altair and location of the Wild Duck cluster, M11.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 August 3 – 10 ~by Curt Nason

After twilight the bright star Altair is halfway up in the southeastern sky, forming the lower peak of the Summer Triangle with Vega and Deneb. It is flanked by two somewhat dimmer stars, Tarazed and Alshain, and the trio forms the head of Aquila the Eagle. The eagle’s body and tail stretch southward, while the wings reach forward to propel it up the Milky Way. In Greek mythology the eagle was the pet of Zeus and the bearer of his deadly thunderbolts. In Chinese mythology Tchi-Niu (Lyra) was a princess and royal weaver, and Kien-Niou (Aquila) tended the king’s cows. The two fell in love and were married but they subsequently neglected their chores. Angered, the king placed the herder on the opposite side of the river, represented by the Milky Way. On the seventh day of the seventh month all of the magpies in the country form a bridge to allow the lovers to be together for one day.

Following a string of stars beyond the eagle’s tail, over the constellation border into Scutum the Shield, a binocular search will pick up a smudge of light which is a cluster of stars called M11 or the Wild Duck Cluster. From the eagle’s head toward Cygnus or Lyra is a tiny constellation called Sagitta the Arrow. Look to the upper right of the arrow’s fletching with binoculars to see a popular asterism of about a dozen stars. Although it is upside down you will recognize the Coathanger Cluster, also known as Collinder 399 or Brocchi’s Cluster.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:03 am and sunset will occur at 8:46 pm, giving 14 hours, 43 minutes of daylight (6:10 am and 8:49 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:12 am and set at 8:36 pm, giving 14 hours, 24 minutes of daylight (6:19 am and 8:39 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Wednesday and passes near Jupiter on Friday. Jupiter is at its highest and best for observing in twilight, and telescope users might see its Red Spot around 10 pm on Friday. Saturn transits the meridian around 10:30 pm. Mercury rises before 5 am and is well placed for locating in morning twilight. On clear mornings you might catch some late meteors from South Delta Aquariid shower or some early Perseids.

The annual star party at Mount Carleton Provincial Park takes place on August 2-3. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretative Centre on August 3 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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