Skywatch Line for Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 8, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 8, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:52am and sets at 8:09pm; Moon rises at 3:29am and sets at 7:26pm. On Friday, a wafer-thin crescent Moon lies about three finger-widths from the bright star Pollux just over the east north-eastern horizon before the Sun comes up. New Moon occurs on Sunday at 9:50am.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, shines low due west during twilight. It sets around twilight’s end. Mars is hidden deep in the sunset.

Jupiter, at magnitude –2.8 in constellation Aquarius, and Saturn, at magnitude +0.2 in constellation Capricornus, shine in the east-southeast after dark. Jupiter starts the night lowest. Saturn glows yellowly, about two fists at arm’s length to Jupiter’s upper right. The pair levels out around midnight. By then they’re nearly at their highest in the south, at their telescopic best. Saturn reached opposition on August 1st and Jupiter reaches opposition on August 19th. Therefore, they’re already essentially as close and big as they’ll get this year.

The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks next week under favorable conditions, is now ramping up with a radiant 2.5° northeast of magnitude 3.8 star Miram, or Eta Persei, in constellation of Perseus. Start looking about two hours before sunrise from a location with as little artificial light pollution as possible.

Bright Vega passes closest to overhead around 11pm. It passes right through zenith at latitude 39° north. Deneb crosses closest to the zenith two hours after Vega. But to see Deneb exactly straight up you need to be at latitude 45°, which is the latitude of Portland, Minneapolis, Montreal, southern France, and northern Italy.

You look toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy when you look at the famous asterism of the Teapot in Sagittarius. The constellation of Sagittarius is supposed to be a centaur. That’s a mythical half man/half horse creature carrying a bow and arrow. These same stars also make up the Teapot in Sagittarius. The Teapot is an asterism in the western part of the constellation. It’s simple to spot. It’s best viewed during the evening hours from about July to September. The Teapot climbs to its highest point for the night around 1am when it appears due south. As seen from our mid-northern latitudes, the Teapot rises in the southeast about three hours before it climbs to its highest point. The Teapot sets in the southwest about three hours afterward. The center of the galaxy is some 30,000 light-years away. Sweep the area around the Teapot with binoculars or a telescope. You’ll see many faint fuzzy objects pop into view. They’re star clusters and nebulae located in the disk of our galaxy in the direction toward the galaxy’s center.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, August 4, and Thursday, August 5, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, August 4, and Thursday, August 5, written by Alan French.

The Sun now sets at 8:18 P.M. and rises at 5:50 A.M.

A waning gibbous Moon rises before sunrise. A 10% illuminated Moon rises at 2:31 A.M. Thursday. It will be 5% illuminated when it rises at 3:25 A.M. Friday. Look for the slender old Moon toward the east-northeast during morning twilight. The Moon reaches new on Sunday morning and starts another journey around our Earth.

Look for brilliant Venus low in the west after sunset. At magnitude -4.0 it is easy to spot even against the bright skies of early evening twilight. On its faster, inner orbit, Venus is now slowly catching up with Earth. Both inner planets show phases like our Moon. Right now, a telescope shows Venus as a brilliant, gibbous disk, 80% of its visible face in sunlight.

By 10 P.M. the skies are nice and dark and Saturn and Jupiter shining brightly in the southeastern sky. Jupiter is the brighter, shining at magnitude -2.8, while yellowish Saturn is magnitude +0.2.

At 10:00 P.M. the Big Dipper, a pattern of stars recognized by many, is in the northwest. This asterism is part of the constellation Ursa Major, The Great Bear. Unlike some constellations, it’s not hard to imagine a bear in the sky.

The Big Dipper is easy to spot. Looking northwest, you’ll see the four stars outlining the bowl to the right, angled downward, with the three stars forming the handle going upward to the left.

Unlike real bears, our sky bear has a long tail, marked by the three stars of the dipper’s handle. The four stars of the bowl represent the bear’s hindquarters, while another pair of fainter stars in front of the bowl mark his shoulders. Look for a third star farther in front of the bowl that marks the nose.

Extending downward from the back of the bowl you can trace two strings of stars extending downward, each ending in star pairs. These are the bear’s rear legs and toes. A single string of stars extends downward from the two stars in front of the bowl, again ending in a star pair. These stars form one of his front legs and toes. Can you imagine our sky bear? Can you spot his ears?

Ursa Major is the third largest constellation in the night sky. Only Virgo and Hydra take up more of the sky, with Hydra being the largest constellation.

Skywatch Line for Monday August 2nd and Tuesday August 3rd, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday August 2nd and 3rd, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:14 PM; night falls at 10:10. Dawn begins at 3:54 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:49.

Taurus houses the Moon on both nights. The 23-day-old Moon sets at 3:45 PM. Tuesday’s Moon rises at 1:13 AM, 19% illuminated and about 29 arc-minutes in size; it sets at 4:46 PM.

Venus and Mars barely hang on as “evening stars in Leo. Venus sets after Mars; it is easier to find. At about 8:45 PM, Venus is found in the West about 10° above the horizon, minus 4th magnitude, 81% lit and about 13 arc-seconds in size. Mars is much closer to the horizon, about 4° high, dimmer with 1st magnitude and much smaller 3 arc-seconds. Now it the time for last looks at Mars; it becomes very difficult later in the month. Mars sets at 9:11 PM.

While Mars is difficult, Saturn is easy, rising in eastern Capricornus at 8:10 PM, it shines with zero magnitude and appears a moderate 12 arc-seconds and about 6° above the horizon at 8:45 PM. Monday is a special day. Saturn is at Opposition, which means it is aligned with Earth and the Sun – an ideal time to observe its rings and moons. The rings appear twice as large as the planet itself and visible all night. Saturn begins to retrograde, which means that it appears to back up before resuming eastward movement.

While Saturn is catching all the attention, Aquarius houses Jupiter and Neptune. Jupiter rises about an hour after Saturn, glows with minus 2nd magnitude and appears almost 3 times Saturn’s size. By 10 PM it is 9° high, 18° at 11 and by Midnight it is 26° high. While both Saturn and Jupiter are impressive in binoculars, telescopic observers can witness the Jovian moon Io’s shadow begin to cross the planet at 11:32 PM Tuesday, followed by Io itself at 11:56 PM, with both Io and its shadow exiting by 2:14 AM, Wednesday.

Neptune rises at 9:57 PM, appears about 7th magnitude and a tiny 2 arc-seconds. It is 11° high at 11 PM, 21° at Midnight and highest at 3:45 AM; Neptune is found 23° to Jupiter’s lower left. Uranus completes the planet parade, rising in Aries at 11:55 PM, brighter than Neptune, but smaller; it lies about 50° to Neptune’s lower left. All four planets set either at or after Sunrise.

This year, the American West experienced heat waves of epic proportions. Television forecasters used the phrase “Dog Days.” That expression harks back to antiquity. Although most people observe Canis Major (the Big Dog) in winter, it, and its brightest star, Sirius, rises just before sunrise. Ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans knew this. All named the constellation as a dog. The word “Sirius” comes from the Greek for “scorching.” Indeed, the star rises during the hottest time of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. These cultures considered the constellation bad news. Heat was reputed to cause people and animals to become feverish, mad or warlike. Myths say men turned into werewolves, while animals contracted rabies. The Egyptians did find one bright spot during the Dog Days. The rising of Sirius also signaled the beginning of the annual Nile floods. These floods irrigated farms and deposited vital nutrients, fertilizing the soil.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 30, through Sunday, August 1, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 30, through Sunday, August 1, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:45am and sets at 8:18pm; Moon sets at 12:39pm and rises at 11:53pm. For the second time in July, the Moon will officially reach its third quarter phase at 9:16am on Saturday.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, continues to shine low in the west during twilight. It sets around twilight’s end. Mars is disappearing deep in the sunset, lower right of Venus.

Saturn, at magnitude +0.2 in constellation Capricornus, and brighter Jupiter, at magnitude –2.8 in constellation Aquarius, shine in the east-southeast as the stars come out. Jupiter shines brighter about two fists at arm’s length to Saturn’s lower left. By late evening they make an impressive duo higher in the southeast. They’re highest in the south around 2am. Saturn is at opposition on Sunday night. Saturn’s rings are distinctly brighter, compared to Saturn’s globe, than they usually are. This is caused by the solid ring particles backscattering sunlight to us when the Sun is almost directly behind us. The effect is named for Hugo von Seeliger, who studied it in detail.

Look for the constellation Scutum the Shield. It’s located in a rich region of the Milky Way and requires a dark sky to be seen. In late July and early August, look in a dark sky, far from the glare of city lights for a hazy pathway stretched across the sky. This band is the edgewise view into our own Milky Way galaxy. If you see it, you can also find the small constellation, Scutum the Shield. There are only four to five stars outlining the constellation. But Scutum is noticeable in a dark sky because the Milky Way is so rich here. Look for Scutum in the southern sky. You’ll be looking toward the richest part of our Milky Way galaxy. Looking not far from the famous Teapot pattern in the constellation Sagittarius. The Teapot marks the direction to the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Scutum doesn’t mark the exact center of the galaxy, but it’s close. The Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius named the constellation Scutum Sobiescianum, meaning the shield of Sobieski, in 1683. He named it for Jan III Sobieski, a Polish king who led his armies to victory in the Battle of Vienna. The constellation in charts of the era resembles the king’s coat of arms on his shield.

As summer progresses, Arcturus moves down the western side of the evening sky. Arcturus forms the bottom point of the Kite of Bootes. The Kite extends upper right from Arcturus by about two fists at arm’s length. The lower right side of the kite is dented inward.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 28 and Thursday, July 29, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 28 and Thursday, July 29, written by Alan French.

The Sun now rises at 5:41 A.M. and sets at 8:27 p.m.

A waning gibbous Moon rises late in the evening. The 73% illuminated Moon will rise at 11:12 P.M. Wednesday. It will be 63% illuminated when it rises at 11:32 P.M. Thursday. The Moon reaches last quarter at 9:16 A.M. Saturday morning. Look for it then, appearing faint against the daytime sky, 46-degrees above the southwestern horizon.

There are fine passes of the International Space Station (ISS) over our area on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. We see satellites because they are up in sunlight while we are down in the Earth’s shadow and darkness. The ISS is bright because it is very large and reflects a lot of sunlight. During both upcoming passes the space station will move into the Earth’s shadow and fade from view. (Some times will be given in hours, minutes, and seconds.)

When first coming up from the horizon the thick atmosphere dims the ISS and its motion is largely toward us, so it is hard to spot because it is neither bright nor moving fast. As it moves higher it brightens and its motion across our line of sight increases, so its movement against the background stars becomes more obvious. Appearing brighter than any star in the night sky when well above the horizon, the ISS is easy to spot.

On Wednesday look for the ISS rising up from the west northwestern horizon between 10:37 and 10:38 P.M. By 10:39 it should be obvious moving across the western sky. At 10:39:30 it will pass the end of the Big Dipper’s handle, about one handle’s length away, and at 10:40 it will pass through the kite-shaped pattern of stars, stretching upward from the bright reddish star, Arcturus, outlining Boötes. After then traveling through the small constellation Corona Borealis, the ISS will move into the Earth’s shadow at 10:40:28 and fade from view, still high in the sky – 59-degress above the west southwestern horizon.

Thursday’s ISS pass is earlier and will travel across most of the sky before entering the Earth’s shadow. Look for it rising up from the west southwestern horizon between 9:50 and 9:51 P.M. How soon you spot it will depend mostly on how clear the skies are near the horizon. By 9:52 it will be approaching the Big Dipper. It will pass behind the Dipper’s bowl and through its handle and then continue high across the north northeastern sky, reaching its highest point, 81 degrees above the horizon, at 9:53:26.

Its path with then take it past brilliant Vega and through Cygnus, the Swan, in the east. As it moves toward the east northeastern horizon, it will enter the Earth’s shadow 9:54:48, when 33-degrees above the horizon, and fade from view.

Skywatch Line for Monday July 26th and Tuesday July 27th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 26th, and 27th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:22 PM; night falls at 10:22. Dawn begins at 3:42 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:42.

Monday, the Moon, in Aquarius, appears about 31 arc-minutes in size and appears 90% illuminated; it sets at 10:24 PM. Tuesday, it moves into Cetus, rising at 9:27 AM, slightly thinner and sets at 10:48 PM.

Venus and Mars, in Leo, are still visible, but low in the West. First magnitude Mars sets at 9:28 PM, but only 5° above the horizon. Venus, blazing with minus 3rd magnitude, 12 arc-seconds in size, appears about 7 arc-seconds above and to Mars’ upper left. Venus sets at 9:48 PM. Both may require an unobstructed view and binoculars or telescope.

While Mars and Jupiter are setting, Saturn, in Capricornus, rises in the East at 8:39, shines with zero magnitude and is a moderate 18 arc-seconds. Jupiter, in Aquarius, rises at 9:33 PM and appears large with 48 arc-seconds. By 11 PM, both join the Moon and are high enough for details. Saturn is a favorite for first time observers. The ring system never fails to amaze. Telescopic sky watchers can see the Great Red Spot, a giant storm on Jupiter, at 3:23 AM on Tuesday and witness the Jovian Moon Io’s march across the face of Jupiter from 9:37 PM until 12:29 AM on Wednesday.

Neptune shares Aquarius with Jupiter, rising at 10:25 PM, 7th magnitude and a small 2 arc-seconds; by Midnight it is 16° high and 6° above the Moon. Uranus is last, in Aries, rising at 12:26 AM, fifth magnitude, 4 arc-seconds and 17° high at 2 AM.

The Southern Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower peaks on July 29th, but actually happens all week. However, the brilliant Moon will wash out most meteors; only the brightest will be visible.

As night falls, Scorpius lies due South and obvious to even the casual sky watcher. Scorpius is one of the oldest constellations; its origins lie in the sands of Babylon. Star names betray its history. Sumerians and Babylonians gave us the Zodiac as we know it, and named them in their languages. When the Greeks occupied the Middle East, they imposed their own names – as did the later Romans. Conquering Arabs also renamed the constellations and stars. Crusaders, who came across Arabic scientific documents, republished all this knowledge, forgotten during the Dark Ages.

Antares is the common name for the red star that marks the Scorpion’s heart. The word Antares means “rival of Ares,” the Greek word for the Roman god – Mars. Indeed, the two do look alike. Of course, Antares is a giant star, while Mars is a small planet. The two stars on either side of Antares were called “Al Niyat,” Arabic for “the Arteries.” Beta, Delta and Nu, in the head, were called Graffias, Dschubba and Jabbah. The stinger’s stars are Shaula and Lesath – again Arabic names. Theta, the star that bends upward to form the tail is called by two Sumerian names: Girtab and Sargas.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:38am and sets at 8:25pm; Moon sets at 4:37am and rises at 8:39pm. The Moon will reach its full phase on Friday at 10:37pm. July full Moon is often called the Buck Moon, Hay Moon or Thunder Moon. That’s because at this time of year buck deer begin to grow velvety antlers and farmers load hay in their barns amid the summer season’s frequent thunder showers. The Moon is full when it is opposite the Sun in the sky. Therefore, full Moon rises in the east as the Sun is setting and sets in the west at sunrise.

On Friday, look for Saturn about a fist at arm’s length to Moon’s left. By dawn on Saturday, they shift to the southwest and twist around so that Saturn is above the Moon. In the east after dark Saturn shines upper right of the Moon, and Jupiter shines farther to the Moon’s left. By dawn this scene of action shifts to the southwest and the pattern rotates clockwise.

On Saturday, see both Regulus and Mars well down to Venus’s lower right, by 4° and 7° respectively. Venus, at magnitude –3.9, continues to shine low in the west during twilight. Lower left of it is tiny Mars, 200 times fainter at magnitude +1.8. Mars gets lower every day. Both planets set before twilight ends. Upper left of Venus you’ll find Regulus moving closer to Venus day by day. It’s brighter than Mars by a half magnitude.

Saturn, at magnitude +0.2 in constellation Capricornus, and Jupiter, at magnitude –2.8 in constellation Aquarius, rise in the east-southeast in twilight. Jupiter rises an hour after Saturn. Saturn sits 20° to Jupiter’s upper right. They’re highest in the south, at their telescopic best, around 2am. They’ll reach opposition next month, so they’re already about as close and big as they’ll get.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.8 in constellation Aries, is well placed in the east before dawn begins.

Neptune, at magnitude 7.8 in constellation Aquarius 22° east of Jupiter, is higher in the south-southeast before dawn begins.

As summer progresses, bright Arcturus moves down the western side of the evening sky. Its pale ginger-ale tint helps identify it. Off to Arcturus’s right in the northwest, the Big Dipper scoops to the right.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 21 and Thursday, July 22, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 21 and Thursday, July 22, written by Alan French.

The Sun now sets at 8:34 p.m. and rises at 5:35 a.m. The days are slowly growing shorter.

A waxing gibbous Moon now brightens the night sky. A 94% illuminated Moon will rise at 6:49 P.M. Wednesday. It will be 98% in sunlight when it rises at 7:54 Thursday, appearing essentially full. The Moon will reach full Friday night.

There have been many reports of a reddish Moon and Sun due to smoke from the western forest fires. A friend in Pennsylvania, where the skies were clear of clouds Tuesday night, reported that only the Moon and Vega were visible in his smoke polluted night sky. Our recent rains may have cleared some of the smoke, but watch the Moon rise for signs of smoke over our region. If the heavy smoke persists or is renewed, some coloration may be visible when the Moon is high in the sky.

If you look high in the east, almost overhead, at 10:00 P.M. you’ll find bright Vega, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the brightest star in the small constellation, Lyra, the Lyre. Like many bright stars, Vega is bright because it is a close neighbor, lying just over 25 light years away from us. Its light, traveling at 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second) took over 25 years to reach your eyes, so it left star in early 1996.

Vega was the first star, other than our Sun, to be photographed, having its celestial portrait taken on the night of July 16-17 in 1850. The photo was a daguerreotype, a process which creates a detailed image on a sheet of copper coated with silver. The photo was taken through the 38-centimeter (15-inch) aperture refractor at the Harvard Observatory by William Bond and James Adams Whipple.

Installed in 1847 the 38-centimeter refractor at Harvard was the largest telescope in the United States for 20 years, and was known as “The Great Refractor.”

Vega was also the first star, other than our Sun, to have its spectrum photographed, by Henry Draper in August, 1872. Like the spectrum of the Sun, the star’s spectrum showed absorption lines, dark lines where specific wavelengths or colors emitted by the star were absorbed by cooler gases in upper layers of its atmosphere.

The constellation Lyra is easily spotted, made up of a small parallelogram of four equally bright stars to the southeast of Vega and a single star of similar brightness to the northeast. A lovely planetary nebula, the Ring Nebula, lies directly between the closer spaced pair of stars in the parallelogram farthest from Vega. Being close to obvious landmarks, the Ring Nebula is a fine, easily located, target for beginning telescope users

Skywatch Line for Monday July 19th and Tuesday July 20th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 19th, and 20th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:29 PM; night falls at 10:34. Dawn begins at 3:30 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:35.
The 10-day-old Moon rises at 4:10 PM in southwestern Libra, is highest at 9 PM, 70% illuminated, and sets at 1:53 AM.

Tuesday finds the Moon in Scorpius’ claws, rising at 5:27 PM, 32 arc-minutes in size, 80% lit and sets at 2:37 AM.
Last week’s close encounter of Venus and Mars has dissolved. Venus continues to be the “evening star,” blazing with minus 3rd magnitude, a moderate 12 arc-seconds 85% illuminated, 8° above the western horizon, and setting at 9:56 PM. Venus closes in to Leo’s bright star Regulus on Monday and Tuesday. Mars lies about 4° below Venus, glowing with first magnitude, a tiny 3 arc-seconds, 5° above the horizon and sets at 9:45 PM. Both are low and may require an unobstructed horizon; binoculars will help find both amid the bright sunset.

Saturn, in Capricornus, rises at 9:08 PM, in the East, while Venus and Mars are still up. The Ringed Planet shines with zero magnitude, is a moderate 8 arc-seconds and is highest at 2 AM; it is 13° high by 10:30 PM and 23° by Midnight.
Aquarius houses Jupiter and Neptune. Jupiter rises at 10:02 PM, glows with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 47 arc-seconds and is highest at 3:18 AM; it is 10° high at 11PM and 19° high at Midnight. Tuesday, telescopic observers can witness the Jovian moon Io being eclipsed at 10:31 PM and at 11:50 PM see Europa reappear from being occulted. Wednesday at 1:33 AM, observers can experience Io’s reappearance. Neptune rises at 10:53 PM, glimmering with 7th magnitude, a small 2 arc-seconds and highest at 4:41 AM. Uranus, in Aries, rises at 12:53 AM, shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and sets during daytime.

About Midnight, a constellation, shaped like a stick drawing of a house, Cepheus, points toward the North Star – Polaris. In Greek legend, Cepheus was king-husband of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda. Cepheus houses one star that became the prototype of a whole class of stars. Cepheids are variable stars that have relatively short periods, usually days. These stars vary their light due to processes within the stars. In 1893, Henrietta Swan Leavitt worked as a human computer for Harvard Observatory. She was engaged in a project when she made a discovery. Leavitt noticed that the variation period of this class of star was in direct proportion to its intrinsic brightness. The Cepheid became a “standard candle.” If you know how bright the star is, and you see it from Earth as dimmer, one can estimate distance to the star. Miss Leavitt made it possible to reckon distances to star clouds and galaxies. All one had to do is find a Cepheid star and note its period. Ms. Leavitt’s discovery made possible the amazing progress of astrophysics in the Twentieth Century.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 16, through Sunday, July 18, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 16, through Sunday, July 18, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:32am and sets at 8:31pm; Moon rises at 12:25pm. The Moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 6:10am on Saturday. Its 90-degree angle away from the Sun will cause us to see the Moon half-illuminated on its eastern side. At first quarter, the Moon rises around mid-day and sets around midnight.

As darkness falls on Friday and Saturday, the Moon introduces you to Spica, the brightest star to in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. Once every month, as the Moon makes its monthly rounds in front of the constellations of the zodiac, the Moon sweeps by Spica. From a distance of 262 light-years away, Spica appears to us on Earth to be a lone bluish-white star in a quiet region of the sky. Spica consists of two stars, and maybe more. The pair are both larger and hotter than our Sun. They’re separated by 11 million miles. They orbit their common center of gravity in four days. Earth is 93.3 million miles from our Sun. The two stars in the Spica system are individually indistinguishable from a single point of light, even with a telescope. The dual nature of this star was revealed only by analysis of its light with a spectroscope.

On Saturday, the dim and distant dwarf planet Pluto will reach opposition. The Earth will be positioned between Pluto and the Sun. While at opposition, Pluto will be located 3.10 billion miles, or 277 light-minutes from Earth and it will shine with an extremely faint visual magnitude 14.3. That’s far too dim for visual observing through backyard telescopes. Pluto will be located in the sky about midway between Saturn and the bright star Nunki in Sagittarius’ Teapot asterism.

On Sunday, the main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will halt its regular eastward motion in front of the distant stars and begin a retrograde loop that will last until early November. Pallas’ visual magnitude of 9.7 will allow it to be seen in amateur telescopes starting in late evening. On Sunday, Pallas will be positioned in the eastern sky, less than half a degree to the right of the magnitude 6.65 star HIP116417 and the magnitude 7.35 star HIP116431, which sit near the ring of stars that forms the western fish in Pisces. The asteroid and those stars will appear together in the eyepiece of your telescope.

The Coathanger, or Brocchi’s cluster, is a tiny asterism. This star formation looks exactly like its namesake and is easy to make out through binoculars, you need to know just where to look. The Summer Triangle asterism can help point the way. The cluster is located along a line between two Triangle stars, Vega, and Altair.

On July 17, 1850, the first photograph of a star, other than our Sun, was taken. At Harvard Observatory, the observatory director, William Cranch Bond and a Boston photographer John Adams Whipple took a daguerreotype of Vega. Astrophotography began in 1840, when John William Draper took an image of the Moon, using the same daguerreotype technique. The technique was based on polishing a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treating it with fumes that made its surface sensitive to light and exposing it in a camera for as long as it was necessary. The plate was then developed in a current of magnesium vapor, which adhered to the light-struck parts of the plate.