Eyes on the Night Sky – August 2022

Welcome to the August edition of Eyes on the Night Sky. True darkness has returned; that means you will be able to see the Milky Way in all its glory and your favourite deep sky objects. This time of year heralds the beginning of the stargazing season as there are a lot of fantastic deep sky objects to see through telescopes, binoculars and the unaided eye. We will select some of the best treasures you can see during the month of August.

The Moon and the Perseid Meteor Shower

The Full Moon occurs on 12th August. Unfortunately, this will be during the peak of the spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower; the Moon’s bright light will drown out most of the ‘shooting stars’. However, you may see some brighter meteors during that night but don’t forget to look up in the week before and after the 12th.

The New Moon occurs on 27th August, making it an ideal time to see the Milky Way. The darkest times of the night in Mid Wales falls around midnight to 2am at the start of the month and gets progressively longer – meaning that there will be six hours of darkness at the end of August, starting at 10.30pm and ending at 4.30am.

Veil Nebula

RA 20h 45m 38s | Dec +30° 42′ 30″

This object is famous for its spectacular Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960), or Witch’s Broom Nebula. It is part of a larger group of nebulae called the Cygnus Loop, some of which can be seen visually.

It is very popular with astro-imagers but can be found by visual observers with a little patience. In very dark skies, such as the Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park, it can be seen through eyepiece at low magnification as a wispy strand, but if you have an OIII filter, it really ‘pops’ and you can see how the nebula got its name.

The filaments become more prominent and almost shimmers in a dark sky. If the skies are indeed free from light pollution, hold your OIII filter to the eye, look up and see if you can spot the Veil Nebula without the aid of a telescope.

To find it using a telescope, look in the constellation of Cygnus (or Northern Cross) and the western side of the cross – spot the star at the end and look for a smaller star underneath it called 52 Cyg – try to find that star with your finder scope and then take a look through your eyepiece – the nebula is right near 52 Cyg. Comprising ejected material from a supernova, this object lies 1,470 light years away.

If you are feeling brave, try to find the rest of this lovely group of nebulae. NGC 6992 is better known as the Eastern Veil Nebula and appears as a crescent-shaped wisp – you will definitely need your OIII filter to see this. The coordinates for this object are: RA 20h 57m 20.48s | Dec +31° 44′ 03″

Treasures in Ophiuchus

There are several telescope objects to challenge you this month, including a binocular one:

IC 4665 – Open Star Cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus

RA 17h 47m 24.79s | Dec 05° 42′ 35.6″

This lovely little open star cluster sits above the top left-hand side of the constellation. Look in that area and raise your binoculars to your eyes. Try to spot a collection of hot, blue stars that resemble the spring Beehive Cluster. Aptly named the summer Beehive Cluster, the dozen or so stars appear like a swarm of celestial bees. IC 4665 is much younger than its spring counterpart, thought to be at least 17 times younger. Some have spotted a fun asterism within this object – see if you can resolve the stars into the word “HI”!

M10 – Globular Cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus

RA 16h 57m 8.92s | Dec -04° 05′ 58.07″

A bright cluster with an asymmetrical core – with a telescope of three inches and upwards, dark sky conditions may reward you with resolvable stars around the outer edges; through larger telescopes, try to tease out more detail. For bonus points, try and spot this globular cluster with binoculars!

M12 – Globular Cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus

RA 16h 47m 14.18s | Dec -01° 56′ 54.7″

Through a six-inch telescope you may be able to tease out stars across the surface of this globular cluster, which will become more pronounced when using larger telescopes.

M9– Globular Cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus

RA 17h 19m 11.67s | Dec -18° 30′ 55.97″

This object can also be found using a small telescope but will resemble a fuzzy blob with no stars resolved. Larger telescope may resolve individual stars.

NGC 6356 – Globular Cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus

RA 17h 23m 35s, Dec -17° 48′ 47”

You won’t be able to resolve individual stars but look for the bright core surrounded by a smooth glow.

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