Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 4th, and Thursday, July 5th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 4th, and Thursday, July 5th, written by Louis Suarato.

The Last Quarter phase of the Moon occurs at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday, about 2 hours after it sets for the day. The Moon will rise again at 28 minutes past midnight. Try to spot Mercury before it sets with M44, the Beehive Cluster, at 9:40 p.m., in the northwest. Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus all share the sky until Venus sets at 10:53 p.m., ahead of the constellation Leo, and its brightest star, Regulus. Look for Jupiter above the southwestern horizon before midnight. Saturn will be embedded within the Milky Way in the south-southeast. Mars rises at 10:27 p.m. in Capricornus.

Celebrate the 4th of July by looking for NGC 6946, also known as the Fireworks Galaxy. NGC 6946 is a face-on spiral galaxy between the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus. This 9.60 magnitude galaxy is about 22.5 million light-years away. Discovered by William Herschel on September 9, 1798, the Fireworks Galaxy spans 40,000 light-years, about one-third the size of our Milky Way. Eight supernovas have been observed to explode within this galaxy during the past century. Robert Burnham, Jr. describes NGC 6946 as having “at least four well defined arm segments, and several fainter branches or “sub arms”.” Look for The Fireworks Galaxy about 20 degrees to the north of Deneb, the tail star in Cygnus the Swan, It can also be located by looking 2 degrees southwest of the star, Eta Cephei.

In addition to July 4th being the anniversary of the signing of theDeclaration of Independence, it is also the birthdate of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Born in 1868, Leavitt studied the periods of pulsating stars, known as Cepheid variables. These stars regularly vary in brightness from a few days to several months. By studying 1,777 variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds, Levitt determined that “since the variables are probably nearly the same distance from the Earth, their periods are apparently associated with their actual emission of light, as determined by their mass, density, and surface brightness.” This became known as the Period-Luminosity relation, and is used to calculate the distance of galaxies.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, July 2nd and 3rd, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, July 2nd and 3rd.

The Sun sets at 8:37 PM; night falls at 10:52. Dawn begins at 3:07 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:22.

The darkening sky holds several bright planets. Mercury, in Cancer, shines with zero magnitude and appears about 57% illuminated. The observer should view it first, since it lies only 8º above the western horizon and sets at 10:06 PM. Mercury replaces Venus as The Beehive’s neighbor; it lies about 2º west of the star cluster.

Venus, the brightest of the planets, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, appears 16 arc-seconds in size and is about 70% lit. It is found about 17º above the western horizon and is 8º west of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. It sets at 10:55 PM.

Jupiter is second brightest, inhabiting Libra and glowing with minus 2nd magnitude. The giant planet still clings close to Zubenelgenubi, the constellation’s brightest star. It is highest about 8:56 PM. Telescope users can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 9:48 PM, Monday. They can also see the Jovian moon Ganymede finish its crossing at 10:21 PM, followed by its shadow beginning its own trip of Jupiter’s face at 12:58 AM on Tuesday.

Saturn, in Sagittarius, rose before sunset and, by nightfall, shines with zero magnitude and lies about 10º above the eastern horizon. While easily visible in binoculars, its glorious ring system is best appreciated in a telescope at 12:34 AM. Asteroid 4Vesta, in Ophiuchus, is still relatively bright with fifth magnitude and lies about 9º west of Saturn and 5 ½º west of the star cluster M20. Best observed at 11:53 PM, it can be located with the assist of detailed sky charts available from astronomical media. Vesta sets at 4:33 AM.

Mars inhabits Capricornus. It rises about 10:31 PM, shines with minus 2nd magnitude and, through telescopes, appears about 97% lit. At Midnight, it is only 12º high above the eastern horizon. It is best observed at 3:01 AM. However, NASA reports that the global dust storm has not yet abated.
Mars rover Opportunity shut itself down, due to its solar panels being covered by Martian dirt. Rover Curiosity is still operating, due to its nuclear power. Its pictures and reports still show degraded views.

Neptune shares Aquarius with the Moon. Rising at 11:42 PM, it lies about 11º east of the blazing Moon. Seeing the 8th magnitude blue-green planet may be difficult. The waning, minus 11th magnitude Moon rises at 11:28 PM on Monday and at 11:56 PM on Tuesday. The Moon appears about 78% lit on Tuesday Dawn, and 69% lit on Wednesday. Wednesday’s Dawn sees the Moon just below Neptune, making observation of the planet even more difficult.

Wednesday, the Fourth of July is famous for fireworks. In the year 1054, Nature staged her own fireworks show. Chinese astronomers saw a new object in Taurus. Eyewitness accounts said it “shone like a comet.” This “guest star” shone in daylight for 23 days and was visible nightly for a year and a half. Many textbooks remark that no one in Europe or the Mid-East saw it. However, North American Natives saw it and made rock carvings depicting it. Charles Messier made it the first in his list of false comet objects. We now know the supernova blast blazed with the brightness of 500 million suns and produced a pulsar, a residue body that spins rapidly and emits regular radio pulses.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 29 through Sunday, July 1, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 29 through Sunday, July 1, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:20am and sets at 8:38pm; the waning gibbous Moon rises at 9:44pm and sets at 6:35am. Look westward after sunrise during the next several mornings to see the Moon in a clear blue daytime sky. The waning gibbous Moon rises after nightfall and sets in a westward direction after sunrise. This upcoming week, see the daytime Moon in the morning sky. Look for the Moon at the same time every morning to see the Moon climbing higher and higher up into the daytime sky each day all week long.

You have a good chance of spotting all 5 bright planets in one night if you can spot Mercury. The innermost planet will be the hardest to see. Mercury glows at magnitude –0.3, just above the northwest horizon and sets about 90 minutes after the Sun. Try to catch Mercury beneath Venus. Mercury is only visible at dusk and early evening. Find an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset. Then look for Mercury beneath Venus about 60 to 90 minutes after sunset. Use binoculars if you can’t see Mercury with the unaided eye. Venus, at magnitude –4.1, can be spotted moments before sunset fairly low in the west-northwest if you know where to look,. As twilight begins to fade, magnitude –2.3 Jupiter reaches the meridian in constellation Libra. Use a scope to examine Jupiter as soon as it pops into view. Jupiter’s multi-banded disk holds up well even when the sky is still dark blue. Saturn shines eastward at zero magnitude in northern constellation Sagittarius. This weekend is perfect for enjoying Saturn, which reached opposition on Wednesday. Saturn is up all night and reaches the meridian around 1am. Unfortunately, Saturn resides low in the south even as the planet crosses the meridian. This makes detail-rich telescopic views less frequent. Saturn’s rings are tilted toward Earth by an angle of 26 degrees. This permits easier sightings of Cassini’s Division that separates Saturn’s two brightest rings. During moments of steady seeing, the threadlike feature is visible even in a small scope. Saturn’s brightest moon, Titan, is located a few arc minutes east of Saturn’s rings this weekend.

Mars, in constellation Capricornus, shines in the southeast. Each week Mars grows a little brighter and a bit bigger. This week Mars is a magnitude –2.1 spanning an impressive 20.3 arc seconds. With steady seeing conditions, assuming a currently active dust storm doesn’t worsen, you should be able to detect some Martian surface features. Mars culminates a little before 4am, when morning twilight is noticeably brightening the sky. Mars rises in the east to southeast sky after Venus follows the Sun beneath the horizon. Seek for Mars, which is about the same brightness as Jupiter, beneath the Saturn.

Saturday mark the 45th anniversary of the longest solar eclipse in 1,000 years. In June 30, 1973, the maximum totality exceeded 7 minutes. The eclipse was observed by British, French and American scientists aboard the French prototype Concorde 001 supersonic aircraft on a flight from Las Palmas, Canaries to Fort Lamy, Chad. The path of totality crossed the Atlantic, the Sahara Desert and East Africa. The Moon’s shadow travelled at over 3,000 km per hour. Flying at 55,000 feet, the jet’s speed made possible a continuous view of the solar eclipse for 74 minutes, ten times longer than could be seen by an observer on the ground. The last total eclipse lasted over 7 minutes was on July 1, 1098. The next total eclipse exceeding seven minutes in duration will not occur until June 25, 2150.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 27th, and Thursday, June 28th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 27th, and Thursday, June 28th, written by Louis Suarato.

Try not to miss Wednesday night’s beautiful display of fivebright planets spanning from east to west, with one of the planets, and the Moon, at opposition and 2 degrees apart. Around 9:30 p.m., Venus shines at magnitude -4.05 over the western horizon. You may be able to see Mercury further north, and lower on the horizon before it sets around 9:45. Then turn your gaze about 30 degrees over the southern horizon where you’ll find -2.32 magnitude Jupiter. Jupiter’s moons continue their dance around their host with Europa beginning to transit the planet at 11:30 p.m., followed by its shadow two hours later. Europa’s transit ends at 1:46 a.m. Thursday, and at 3:51 a.m., its shadow leaves the face of the gas giant. The nearly Full Moon leads Saturn into the sky as it rises at 8:16 p.m., 10 minutes ahead of the ringed planet. The Moon reaches it Full phase, or opposition, at 12:53 a.m. Thursday. Saturn reached opposition, directly opposite the Sun, at 9 o’clock Wednesday morning. Saturn will be at its brightest, shining at magnitude 0.02, and is the best time to view its rings. Its rings are currently tilted at 26 degrees toward Earth. Saturn’s ring tilt will reach their maximum on September 18th of this year at an angle of a fraction over 27 degrees. Both, Full Moon and nearby Saturn will remain visible from sunset to sunrise. Thursday night, it will be Saturn’s turn to lead the Moon across the sky, rising 43 minutes earlier. Mars, at magnitude -2.07, rises at 10:53 p.m., and becomes stationary at 10 a.m., Thursday, and will move in a retrograde, or westward motion, for the next two months, on its way to the red planet’s closest approach to Earth since 2003.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 25th and 26th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 25th and 26th.

The Sun sets at 8:38 PM; night falls at 10:54. Dawn breaks at 3:01 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:18. Since Thursday’s Solstice, we have already lost one minute of daylight.

Three bright planets inhabit the southwestern evening. Venus, in Cancer, is the brightest, blazing with minus 4th magnitude and appearing about 72% illuminated in binoculars or telescope. It sets at 11:02 PM. It still lies near the Beehive star cluster. Mercury, in Gemini, 13º to Venus’ lower right and 8º high, shines with minus 0.3 magnitude and appears about 70% lit. It sets at 10:03 PM.

Jupiter, in Libra, glares with minus 2nd magnitude about 32º above the southwestern horizon. It appears a large 42 arc-seconds in size, still close to the star Zubenelgenubi. Telescopic observers might see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 9:01 PM on Monday. Also, on Monday, they can see Jupiter’s moon Ganymede finish crossing the planet’s face at 10:43. Jupiter is highest at 9:25 PM and sets at 2:30 AM.

The eastern evening sky has its own attractions. The Moon rose earlier and, by civil twilight, lies in Ophiuchus, blazing with minus 11th magnitude, appearing about 95% lit and about 22º high in the East. Tuesday’s Moon is a bit brighter and more illuminated. It is best observed at 11:21 PM on Monday and at 12:09 AM on Tuesday. It sets at 4:19 AM on Tuesday and at 4:59 AM on Wednesday.

Saturn, in Sagittarius, is about 9º to the Moon’s lower left. Shining at zero magnitude and appearing 18 arc-seconds in size, it hovers about 18º above the eastern horizon. Saturn is best observed at 1:04 AM and sets at 5:37. Asteroid 4Vesta lies about 4º above Saturn. It shines with 5th magnitude and appears about 0.6 arc-seconds in size and 23º high. One week after its Opposition, Vesta should still be naked-eye visible from dark rural areas; detailed sky charts from astronomical media help finding it. It rose at 7:44 PM, is best observed at 12:27 AM and sets at 5:09 AM.

Mars, in Capricornus, rises at 10:56 PM and is best observed at about 3:30 AM. It gleams with minus 2nd magnitude and appears about 20 arc-seconds in size. It continues to become brighter and larger in our telescopes. The dust storm, reported last week, has now spread to half the planet. While it may hide surface features, the storm itself is worth watching because we are witnessing weather on another planet.

Neptune rises near the star Phi Aquarii at 12:10 AM; it shines with 8th magnitude and, by Dawn, is 26º above the horizon. Uranus, in Aries, rises at 1:50 AM, shines with 6th magnitude and appears about 12º high at Dawn.

Last week, the asteroid 4Vesta appeared close to the Beehive open star cluster, also known as M 44. The word “Beehive” is actually a nickname. The formal name is Praesepe, which is Latin for “manger.” Greek legends call Cancer’s stars Delta and Gamma the northern and southern donkeys; inspiring a manger to feed them.

This star cluster is bright enough for naked-eye viewing. In 250 BC, Aratus of Soli called it “little mist.” Hipparchus, in 120 BC, described it as “little cloud.” In 1610, Galileo turned his newly built telescope toward it and declared it a “mass of over 40 small stars” and even sketched the formation. Binoculars show it as a star cluster; the smallest telescopes reveal between 50 and 100 stars. A dozen stars shine at 7th magnitude or brighter. Observation reveals that massive stars are clumped towards the center, while lighter stars form the edges. Studies show that M 44 shares a common motion with the Hyades, and maybe shared a common origin. Two Jupiter-sized planets were discovered among the outlying stars; these are the first “hot Jupiters” found in an open star cluster.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:18am and sets at 8:38pm; the waxing gibbous Moon rises at 3:17pm and sets at 2:10am. On Saturday evening, the waxing gibbous Moon and Jupiter are separated by less than 4 degrees. On Sunday, the Moon shines near the three stars forming the head, or the crown, of the Scorpion in the constellation Scorpius, in the south-southeastern sky. Use the bright star Antares to guide you to the Crown of the Scorpion when the Moon drops out the evening sky. The Crown star names are Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii.

Mercury doesn’t stay very far from the glare of the Sun. Chances of observing Mercury this weekend are decent if you have an unobstructed west-northwest horizon. Use binoculars, or a small scope. Mercuryshines at magnitude –0.7 and sets roughly one hour after the Sun. Mercury will continue to gain altitude in the coming weeks. However, it will be somewhat dimmer. Venus and Jupiter are both well placed at dusk. Venus shines in the west shortly after sunset. Jupiter, sits due south at around 10pm. Mars, at magnitude –1.8, rises shortly before midnight. This week Mars’ disk equals 18..6 arc seconds, which is the maximum size it attained during the most recent opposition in 2016. Observe Mars when it’s highest around 4am. Mars may look like a featureless, fuzzy peach, in a telescope depending on how a dust storm now unfolding in the planet’s southern hemisphere. Saturn, glowing at magnitude 0.1, appears low in the southeast as dusk deepens. It reaches near the meridian around 2am.

Spot the brightest asteroid, Vesta, this weekend using binoculars or a small telescope. Shining at magnitude 5.4, you might have a chance to spot Vesta even though this weekend features a waxing gibbous Moon. Vesta currently resides in northern Sagittariusand is positioned about two degrees southwest of open cluster M23. The asteroid was first sighted by Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers in 1807. Itmeasures roughly 525 kilometres across, which makes it the second biggest asteroid-belt object, after Ceres. The title of largest asteroid now belongs to Vesta after Ceres has been reclassified as a dwarf planet. Use a telescope to spot the asteroid locatedvery close to the 9.3-magnitude globular cluster NGC6440. Make a field sketch and note Vesta’slocation relative to its surrounds. A night or two later, go out and look again when Vesta’s position has changed. Its proximity to the globular and open cluster will make the asteroid’s motion easy to detect.

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the 1st moon of Pluto, Charon, by Christy and Harrington. In 1978, evidence of the first moon of Pluto was discovered by astronomer James W. Christy, of the Naval Observatory in Arizona. Christyobtained a photograph of Pluto that showed the orbitto be distinctly elongated. The elongations appeared to change position with respect to the stars over time. The elongation proved to be caused by a previously unknown moon orbiting Pluto at a distance of about 12,100 miles with a period of 6.4 days. The moon was named Charon, after the ferryman in Greek mythology who took the souls of the dead across the River Styx to Pluto’s underworld.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 20th, and Thursday, June 21st, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 20th, and Thursday, June 21st, written by Louis Suarato.

The First Quarter Moon occurs at 6:51 a..m. Wednesday. The Moon rises at 1:02 p.m., and will remain visible until setting at 1:38 a.m., Thursday. Look for Mercury low in the northwest before it sets at 9:40 p.m. with the constellation Gemini. Venus shines at magnitude -4.02 to Mercury’s upper left in Cancer. Venus and M44, the Beehive Cluster, are 1 degree apart. Find Jupiter by starting at the Moon and heading south toward Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, and another 20 degrees further to Jupiter. At 10:57 p.m., the shadow of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, joins its source crossing the face of the planet. Europa’s transit ends at 11:21 p.m., and at 1:14 a.m., its shadow transit ends. Saturn rises in Sagittarius at 8:56 p.m., followed by Mars, in Capricornus, two and a half hours later. If Mars appears less of a red planet these days, it’s because a massive dust storm is covering a quarter of the planet. The storm is so severe it has covered NASA’s rover Opportunity solar panels with dust, eliminating its power source.

The Summer solstice occurs Thursday at 6:07 a.m. in North America. The time of the summer solstice, or beginning ofastronomical summer, is marked by the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilting at its maximum 23.44 degrees toward the Sun. This northern tilt also causes the Sun to reach its northernmost azimuth, before appearing to “stand still” and then begins its trek toward more eastern, then southern sunrises. The word solstice is derived from the Latin word for Sun, “sol”, and middle English “stit”, meaning standing. The summer solstice is also the time for the longest day of the year, providing our region with 16 hours and 29 minutes of daylight. It is also when the Sun reaches its highest altitude of 70 degrees, 47 minutes, at 12:55 p.m..

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting to be held Thursday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at miSci in Schenectady. Club member Dave Scott will provide an update on his Analemma project, discussing how the analemma data can be analyzed.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 18th and 19th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 18th and 19th.

The Sun sets at 8:36 PM; night falls at 10:53. Dawn begins at 3 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:16.

The 6-day-old Moon dominates the evening sky. Blazing with minus 9th magnitude, the 35% crescent occupies Leo. Tuesday’s Moon is brighter and fuller and migrates to Virgo. The Moon sets at 12:39 AM on Tuesday, and at 1:12 AM on Wednesday. The Moon is officially First Quarter at 6:51 AM on Wednesday.

Mercury makes its appearance, a low 1º in the western sky. It shines with minus 1st magnitude, appears about 5 arc-seconds in size and displays an 83% crescent. Mercury sets at 9:47 PM.

Venus, 23º to Mercury’s left, blazes with minus 4th magnitude in Cancer. It is about 20º high, about 15 arc-seconds in size and sports a 75% crescent. Venus lies about 1º from M-44, The Beehive star cluster, a great binocular object for beginners. Venus sets at 11:07 PM.

Jupiter, in Libra, lies 31º high in the southern sky. It blazes with minus 2nd magnitude. The largest planet continues to hug close to Alpha Librae, also called Zubenelgenubi. Telescopic observers can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) centered at 2:02 AM on Wednesday. Jupiter is best observed at 9:54 PM and sets at 3:03 AM.

Saturn rises at 9 PM in Sagittarius, shines at zero magnitude and appears about 18 arc-seconds in size. By nightfall, it lies about 15º high and is best observed at 1:38 AM.

Asteroid 4Vesta lies about 7º to Saturn’s upper right and close to open star cluster M23 – another great binocular view. Tuesday, the brightest asteroid reaches Opposition, when it lines up with Earth and the Sun. It is also historically close, only 170 million kilometers (105 million miles). At magnitude 5.3, Vesta is actually visible to the naked eye under dark skies. The best window for observation in moonless skies is from June 8th – 22nd. Vesta will look like a star which moves a bit westward nightly. Vesta has baffled astronomers. While the Moon reflects only 12% of its sunlight, Vesta reflects 43%. The DAWN spacecraft visited Vesta and found that its surface is not weathered, which accounts for its brilliance. 4Vesta is best observed at 1:06 AM and sets at 5:51 AM.

Mars rises at 11:20 PM in Capricornus. It shines with minus 2nd magnitude, appears 18 arc-seconds in size and is about 94% illuminated. Telescopic observers can see a giant dust storm that has covered a quarter of the planet; it has silenced the rover Opportunity by coating the solar panels that charge the rover’s batteries. Mars continues to brighten and appear larger in preparation for its own Opposition in July. It is best observed at 3:58 AM.

Neptune rises in Aquarius at 12:41 AM, near the star Phi Aquarii. It glows with 8th magnitude and appears a tiny 2 arc-seconds in size but has a distinctive blue-green tint. By Dawn, it is about 23º high. Uranus follows by rising in Aries at 2:21 AM, is brighter and slightly larger than Neptune, but only 6º high by Dawn. Both require detailed star charts available from astronomy websites and magazines.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:17am and sets at 8:36pm; the waxing crescent Moon rises at 7:15am and sets at 10:31pm. On Friday at dusk look to the west to catch the very thin crescent Moon sitting below and to the right of Venus. On Saturday after sunset the crescent Moon is positioned to the left of Venus. On Sunday the Moon approaches Regulus, the brightest star in constellation Leo.

This weekend, look east for the sparkling blue-white star Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra the Harp. Vega is the brightest of the Summer Triangle’s three stars. Look to the lower left of Vega for another bright star, Deneb, the brightest in the constellation Cygnus the Swan and the third brightest in the Summer Triangle. An outstretched hand at an arm length approximates the distance from Vega to Deneb. Look to the lower right of Vega to locate the Summer Triangle’s second brightest star, Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. Under a dark sky on a moonless night, you can see the Milky Way passing in between the Summer Triangle stars Vega and Altair. Usually the term Milky Way refers to the cross-sectional view of the galactic disk, whereby innumerable stars congregate into a cloudy trail, although every star that you see with the unaided eye is a member of our Milky Way galaxy. In summer, the Summer Triangle appears in the east at nightfall, high overhead after midnight and in the west at dawn. When the stars of the Summer Triangle light up the eastern twilight dusk in middle to late June, it’s a sign of spring giving way to summer. When the Summer Triangle is seen high in the south to overhead at dusk and early evening, it’s an indication that summer has receded into fall.

The moonless sky this weekend offers an opportunity to view globular star clusters. The greatest concentration of these objects is found in constellations Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. Each of these constellations holds seven Messier globulars. The clusters located in the big, sprawling figure of Ophiuchus are easier to catch since most of them are higher in the sky than the Sagittarius clusters. Start the Ophiuchus globular hunt with the biggest and brightest of the group, M10 and M12. You can see them in binoculars, however, like most they come into their own when viewed in a telescope. Head east for the dimmer M14, then seek out M19 and M62, which lie so far south. They look as though they belong to neighboring Scorpius. The most challenging of the Ophiuchus Seven are M9 and M107. They’re fainter and smaller than the rest. You will have to push the magnification a little higher when you search for them. If you look with enough care, you’ll discover that no two are exactly alike.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 13th, and Thursday, June 14th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 13th, and Thursday, June 14th, written by Louis Suarato.

The New Moon occurs at 3:43 p.m. Wednesday, leaving the night sky darker for your observing. Venus sets at 11:06 p.m. and is bright enough to see at twilight as it heads toward the west-northwestern horizon after sunset. Look about 8 degrees to the upper left of Venus for M44, also known as the Beehive Cluster. This open star cluster, consisting of about 1,000 stars,resides in the dim constellation Cancer. At the distance of 520 to 610 light-years, the Beehive Cluster is one of the nearest open clusters to our solar system. With a width of three Full Moons, this group of stars can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope.

As Venus is setting, Jupiter is high over the southern horizon in Libra, and Saturn rises in Sagittarius. Mars rises at 11:40 p.m. in Capricornus. The shadow of Jupiter’s moon Europa crosses the planet until 10:37 Wednesday night. Saturn is approaching its opposition at the end of this month, when it can be viewed all night at its brightest. Saturn’s rings are tilted at 25.5 degrees toward Earth, offering fine views of the Cassini Division and Encke Gap within its rings. Mars continues to brighten as we move closer to the Red Planet. Thursday, Earth and Mars will be separated by approximately 49 million miles, By month end, we will have moved about 7 million miles closer to our neighboring planet. Lunar perigee, when the Moon and Earth are closest during this cycle, occurs at 7:53 p.m. Thursday, 28 hours after the New Moon phase. Earth and Moon will be separated by 223,385 miles. Expect higher, and lower, than normal tides during this time. Thursday, after sunset, it will be a challenge to see the 2% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon, 16 degrees elongated from the Sun. Look low above the west-northwestern horizon before 9 p.m..