Sky at a Glance June 24-July 1

A photograph showing the constellation Lyra

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 24 – July 1 ~by Curt Nason

With Canada’s 150th birthday just around the corner, I will highlight once again my idea of our National Constellation. Although Lyra the Lyre (Harp) is not circumpolar in New Brunswick, it is circumpolar in NB West (aka Edmonton). For us it is below the northern horizon for about five hours daily, so it is in either the morning sky or evening sky every day. It is a rather modest constellation but it stands out thanks to its lucida Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky and third brightest as seen from Canada. You will need a moderately-sized telescope, a steady sky and perhaps a coffee to see my point.

Near Vega is a fifth magnitude (too dim to see from urban or overly lit suburban areas) star called Epsilon Lyrae. Binoculars will easily show this as two stars, and a good quality telescope under steady skies (minimal star twinkling) can just distinguish each of those as a pair. Naturally, Epsilon Lyrae has been dubbed the Double-Double. The body of the harp is marked by a parallelogram of stars. Approximately midway between the two stars forming the short side of the parallelogram farther from Vega are the gaseous remnants of a dead star, a planetary nebula called M57 or the Ring Nebula. Ultraviolet radiation from the dead but very hot white dwarf star makes the expelled gases glow. In a small telescope this might look like a fat star, but a larger scope will show it as a smoke ring or doughnut. And if you need another clue, half the parallelogram forms a 7, the number worn by Tim Horton in a Leafs sweater.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:28 am and sunset will occur at 9:14 pm, giving 15 hours, 46 minutes of daylight (5:36 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:32 am and set at 9:13 pm, giving 15 hours, 41 minutes of daylight (5:40 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). The nights are getting longer!

The Moon is new just before midnight on June 23, less than a day after perigee, so expect higher than usual tides this weekend. It is at first quarter and near Jupiter next Friday, well placed for observing during the holiday fireworks. On Wednesday, as darkness sets in, Jupiter’s stormy Red Spot may be visible through a telescope at high magnification. Also that evening, a small telescope could reveal its moon Europa emerging from the planet’s shadow at 10:35, and 13 minutes later Ganymede reappearing from behind the planet. Saturn’s rings are on display in a scope all evening, and in steady binoculars it will look somewhat elongated. Venus rises two and a half hours before the Sun and dominates the morning sky with its brilliance.

The next meeting of the Saint John Astronomy Club will be on Saturday, July 8 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason

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