What's Up in Space
Download this months Star Chart.
This Weekend’s Night Sky (19-20 July 2014)
This weekend’s last quarter Moon, means the Moon won’t rise until after midnight, leaving beautiful dark skies for evening observing. This makes it a great time to look out for some fainter objects.
Scorpius/ Te Matau a Māui and Sagittarius are high in our eastern sky as soon as it gets dark. Scorpius is easy to spot with the beautiful red star Antares marking its heart and a clear curve of stars stretching out to the right of this. Below is the teapot, which forms part of Sagittarius. As the centre of our galaxy lies in this direction, the area around Scorpius and Sagittarius is a great place to look for globular and star clusters as well as interesting nebulae.
About halfway between the scorpion’s sting and the spout of the teapot is M7. This is an open cluster of stars easily visible to the naked eye, and a lovely sight through a good pair of binoculars. M7 is thought to be around 980 light years away and around 200 million years old – pretty young in astronomical terms. Nearby and somewhat fainter, the Butterfly cluster, or M6 is also well worth a look in binoculars.
To the left of the teapot’s spout, and just about visible to the naked eye, is the Lagoon Nebula, or M8. This is a huge cloud of interstellar gas and dust where new stars are being formed. Along with the nearby Trifid nebula (M20), this is a good target for binoculars or a small telescope.