July Night Sky Viewing
By Laurence Mahon
Agate Ridge Observatory
July is a wonderful time to view the summer constellations. Although there are fewer hours of real darkness and you need to wait till almost 10 p.m. PDT before it is dark enough to see anything but the brightest objects, it is still rewarding to view them.
The constellation Cygnus is one of the easiest to find. Look for a large cross on its side. The longest leg points south. It is about half way from the eastern horizon to the zenith. The southernmost star, not as bright as some of the others, is a double star and if you adjust the telescope focus until the stars are a little fuzzy you will see the colors better and know why it is called the Blue and Gold Double.
Not far from the Blue and Gold Double, just a little higher from the horizon is one of the brightest stars in the heavens named Vega in the constellation Lyra.
The easiest way to recognize Lyra is to look for Vega and the parallelogram just below it. Between the bottom two stars of this parallelogram can be seen M-57, the RingNebula.
The small smoke ring you see is really a thin bubble that appears like a ring because you are looking through more material at the sides. Look for a star in the middle of the ring, can you see it?
Just above and to the left of Vega is the star Epsilon Lyrae. It looks like a double star but if you have a telescope you will see each star is really a double star, thus it is known as the Double-Double.
Above Vega is the constellation Hercules, which is almost straight overhead. The body of the figure is known as the keystone. Along the western edge of the keystone about one-third of the distance from the top left corner star you will find the beautiful cluster M-13.
This cluster is one of the prettiest in the heavens. When you view this cluster with binoculars you will see a fuzzy glob and a few individual stars at the edges. With a telescope and higher magnification more of the cluster is shown to be stars, even clear to the center.
The southern end of the Summer Milky Way is rising in the east so spend time to explore it and discover the beauty of our galaxy. There are many nebulas and gaseous clouds to be seen in these star clouds. These views will be better in August as we will be looking through less of our atmosphere.
For information on the M.A.C. Astronomy Club in Madras contact Mahon at 489-2344.