Late August Skies

Sidewalk Astronomers of CharlottetownNow that the eclipse is over, it is time to turn our eyes back to some other objects in our skies.

The current weather forecast for the next several days on Prince Edward Island is unsettled at best. Currently there are predictions of good astronomy weather for seven of the next ten evenings, but as all Islanders know that can change rapidly.

Given that we may have good observing conditions, some familiar targets return to view. For binoculars and small telescopes there are some great options available:

  • Jupiter remains visible in our evening sky, although it will be low in our western sky. It will be magnitude -1 and easily visible in 15X70 binoculars. Look for it before 21:36 and catch the GRS making a transit on the evenings of August 22, 23, 25, 27 and 30th. Also on August 28 beginning at 19:16 Gannymede will start a trip across the face of the great planet..
  • August 28 will see the first quarter moon. It is a great time for lunar observing as the craters and other features come to life under the shadows of the terminator. Moonset is 23:43 so the moon will be nicely placed for evening viewing.
  • Saturn is with us at this time and is fairly high in the sky. At magnitude 0.5 it is an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes.
  • The Andromeda Galaxy which is 2.6Mly away will be a nice challenge for 15X70 binoculars and small telescopes. At magnitude 4.7 it should be detectable although you will likely want to be looking away from the moon.  Complete darkness is always best for deep sky and dim objects however. It is also high in the sky which should help.
  • Adding some diversity to our observing plan might be the Keystone Cluster in the constellation Hercules. While at 5.8 magnitude it might be a challenge, it’s size should make it a nice object. Better to wait until after 23:30 though as Luna starts to leave our sky.
  • Rounding out, my suggestions for good targets would be three nebulae, specifically the Dumbbell at mag 7.3, the Saturn Nebula at 8.3 mag and the Ring Nebula at 9.4 magnitude. All three objects have a decent size and surface brightness, but you will need good seeing conditions.
  • And if you are up after midnight try your eye on Uranus (5.7) and Neptune (7.8).  Both are high in the night sky and discoverable.

You will probably need a star map to help you find some of these objects. They can be printed from the free software Stellarium if you are using it, or you could use the website freestarcharts.com .

These are just some of the fascinating things you can see in our skies here on PEI. Take the time to explore and get to know your universe.

Above all, enjoy the views.

 

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