21 July 2015

Southern Summer Skies

Facing South in the Summer
Facing south in the summer reveals a rich region of the night sky featuring the heart of the Milky Way and several excellent zodiac constellations. If you have a clear horizon to the south, the constellation Scorpius dominates the space with a long curving shape that winds around the horizon back to the tip of the tail of the scorpion, a feature called the Cat's Eyes, Shaula and Lesath.

For the next few months, Saturn is lurking next to the head of the scorpion, adding a bright highlight to the pattern. Scorpius and neighboring Sagittarius (to the east) are found directly in the center of the galaxy so there are numerous deep space objects to be found in the vicinity, making it one of the best places to enjoy with binoculars. You can move from spot to spot and never run out of interesting objects to see. This week the gibbous Moon drifts through that region of the sky so the darkness will be somewhat spoiled, but I find it good to get to know constellations when there is moonlight as well as when you have complete darkness. With moonlight you can learn the basic outline of the constellation, and without moonlight the deeper objects will emerge and reveal themselves to the careful viewer.

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope. 

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