Sky at a Glance July 20 – 27

Photo showing the constellation Ophiuchus and Serpens the Serpent in the night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 July 20 – 27 ~by Curt Nason

Serpens the Serpent is unique among the 88 constellations in that it is split in two by another constellation, Ophiuchus. As the name suggests, Ophiuchus is the Serpent Bearer, and he is often depicted holding a large snake behind his back. The two constellations are also intertwined in mythology.

Ophiuchus represents Asclepius, a renowned healer who could raise the dead. After killing a snake one day, he watched as another snake placed an herb on its dead companion and revived it. After this, Asclepius learned the healing arts and his success at reviving people drew the ire of Hades, a brother of Zeus and ruler of the Underworld. Receiving a complaint from Hades that he was being robbed of subjects, Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt.

The part of Serpens west of Ophiuchus is called Serpens Caput (meaning head); to the east is Serpens Cauda (for tail). M16, the Eagle Nebula, is a rather faint nebula with a star cluster in Serpens Cauda. It gained fame as the iconic Pillars of Creation photo from the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. The delightful globular cluster M5 is found in Serpens Caput, and several other globular clusters reside within the borders of Ophiuchus.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:47 am and sunset will occur at 9:02 pm, giving 15 hours, 15 minutes of daylight (5:55 am and 9:05 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:55 am and set at 8:55 pm, giving 15 hours of daylight (6:02 am and 8:57 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Wednesday evening, rising soon after midnight for a 13 hour trip across the sky. Jupiter is at its highest and best for observing shortly after 10 pm, and telescope users might see its Red Spot around 11 pm on Tuesday. Saturn trails Jupiter by about two hours in the evening sky. Mercury is at inferior conjunction on Sunday, moving into morning sky visibility in early August. The next time it reaches inferior conjunction will be November 11, when it passes directly between us and the Sun and can be seen through a solar-filtered telescope. Transits of Mercury occur 13 times a century.

Members of RASC NB and the Saint John Astronomy Club will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20 at the Moonlight Bazaar in Uptown Saint John.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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