Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What's there to see in the night sky at this time of year?

  1. Jun 26, 2003 #1
    Saturn sets before it gets dark and Jupiter right after. I've already seen the cluster in Hercules and the Andromeda galaxy. What else can I look for? Light pollution in my area is moderate, but nothing horrible. I'm using an 8" Meade Starfinder. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2003 #2
    Right now Mars is getting larger, brighter, and is rising earlier. Mars will reach its peak brightness on August 24, so you have plenty of time. On July 17, at about 4:22 eastern time, an almost full moon will pass right beneath Mars. I don't know how interesting that will be, but I know I'll be watching. If you can get them both in the same field of view, it might make some interesting pictures. Tonight you can find Mars at RA: 22h 30m; DEC: -13.8 degrees. And with your telescope, I'd bet you'd have no trouble finding Uranus. Currently, Uranus is very close to Mars in the sky. RA: 22h 19m; DEC: -11.25 degrees. If you can see close to the horizon, you should find Venus and Mercury, but I've always been disappointed in these. There's an open cluster in Taurus (Hyades) that's quite appealing. You'll find it near the horizon before sunrise. There's a lunar eclipse coming up soon I think in August, but I don't have the exact date (I missed the last one due to an overcast sky :frown: ).
    Sometimes you may even want to search the sky with no clear goal. Eventually you'll find something.
  4. Jun 28, 2003 #3
    San Diego, huh? I'm in Pasadena. The best viewing I know of is in Joshua Tree Natl. Park, which should be within distance for you. I usually go to Mt. Wilson.

    There's lots of stuff to look for in the Summer. It's pretty much constant, except for planets. Check out old astronomy magazines in the library and learn about the summer triangle (Altair, Vega, Deneb). If you have good viewing, you can see galaxies, certain nebulae and possibly even Uranus or Neptune (don't know where they are now), especially with your scope. They are usually washed out in Southern California type light pollution (this is why I mentioned Joshua Tree). If you can, get a smaller diameter eyepiece than the 26mm that comes standard. Try 16mm or so. It'll help magnify fainter objects.
  5. Jun 28, 2003 #4
    I tried looking at Mars but I couldn't really resolve much more than a big reddish looking star. I also have a 2X telenegative barlow lens and a 9.5mm plossl lens. I'll try to get away from the city as soon as the end of next week, I've been to Mt Laguna a few times. I have a computer program that came with an old astronomy book that gives me a good idea of whats out there, I just don't know what I'll actually be able to see with the new scope! I'll see what I can get out of Uranus and Neptume. I still need to learn how to use the eq. mount and learn to polar align the base correctly :)
  6. Jun 28, 2003 #5
    It might be better to observe just before dawn. Mars will be higher in the sky then, and the view will be much clearer. City lights are a killer.
    There ought to be some equation to give the theoretical limiting magnitude of a telescope. I don't know it off-hand, but I'd be interested in seeing it if someone would to post it. For an 8' scope, I'd guess you can resolve maybe up to magnitude 10 or 12. I may be way off. I know for my scope it's 14, and mine's a 10". So basically, you have enough to keep you busy. The hard part is finding them.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2003
  7. Jun 29, 2003 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    If live south of Nebraska, don't forget the dozens of Globulars, Nebula, open clusters and doubles, in Scorpius, Saggitarius, and, higher up a bit, Ophiuchus. Right now, and for several months, they are all perfectly placed straight south. This is handy:

    http://www.astronomical.org/constellations/obs.html [Broken]

    It lists all the "goodies" by constellation, with some photos.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  8. Jun 30, 2003 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It was Mars, right? Not Arcturus?
    Mars should be visible as a small disk, not a point like a star.
    You should be able to make out some darker/lighter regions on the planet and maybe a polar cap.
    When did you look? MArs is also notorious for planetary dust storms which wipe away all details.

    Expect lightly colored points of light.

    Good luck!
  9. Jun 30, 2003 #8
    I live in a pretty densely populated area in North NJ, about 40 minutes from NYC.... even on the clearest of nights... I can count the stars in the sky pretty much... how far away do i need to get to get good star views?
  10. Jun 30, 2003 #9
    Haha, I'm pretty sure it was Mars, or else I'll feel like a total ass. I saw it around 2am towards the South. I'll give it another try tonight if the sky allows.

    My telescope is a Newtonian reflector and it was stored for a couple years before I recently bought it, it's pretty much in perfect condition. I was told I should try collimating it because the mirrors are probably not aligned correctly anymore. I'm afraid this might be the case but is there any easy way to check? The reading on the subject was a bit confusing. I saw the cluster in Hercules and it was a bit blurry, but I'm assuming it might have been caused by too much ambient lights? I'm thinking I should take it in to a shop or have someone that knows more take a look at it. I'm new to telescopes as you can all tell by now. =]
  11. Jul 1, 2003 #10
    Don't feel bad. When I began observing the sky, I confused Venus with Regulus for a month. I was truly surprised when I first pointed a telescope at "Regulus."

    As for collimating the scope, I feel your pain. It took me a whole winter to learn how to collimate my scope. I don't consider myself an expert by any means, so I don't really want to offer help. You can do a "star test" by bringing a bright star in and out of focus, but there are a lot of diagnoses possible, not just bad collimation.

    BTW, I wear a very high prescription contact lens. Does anyone know if this can confound results from a star test? I find it impossible to bring anything perfectly into focus. Even street lights have a yellow haze around them.
  12. Jul 1, 2003 #11
    That ought to be a "reddish looking" disk. That is exactly what you are supposed to see. Only persistence and good luck is apt to show any change. Colored filters might help detect details like polar cap and dust storms, but the disk will still remain small. So, squint a lot!

    My niece got a new telescope with an equatorial mount, so I expect to do backyard viewing in late July and late August, weather permitting. The rest of the time this summer will be dominated by moonlight, except way past our bedtimes. Here are some things I am planning to look for:

    1. galaxies M81 and M82 of Ursa Major, pointed to by the tail of Draco. These are spirals in the same field of view, but one is more face-on and the other more edge-on.

    2. galaxies M51 and M94 of Canes Venatici. M51 hangs just below the end star Alkaid of the big dipper (and at right angle). It is the Whirlpool spiral and the first such identified by W. Parsons (Earl of Rosse). M94 is a compact near face-on spiral.

    3. cluster M3 of Canes Venatici, half way between a line joining Arcturus to the star Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici. This is a fine globular.

    4. clusters M13 and M92 of Hercules. You already found M13 on the right hip. M92 is right between Herc's legs. This is one brilliant globular and one small globular.

    5. stars epsilon of Lyra. This is right next to the summer jewel star Vega. Binoculars should show it as a double star pair. The scope should show each of these as a double star, making it a quartet. It is called "double double".

    6. nebular shell M57 of Lyra. This is between the southernmost two stars of the little parallelogram that forms the rest of Lyra. It is a classic so-called planetary appearing as a ring around the small dwarf star that supplies the UV radiation that activates its fluorescence. These things are the butterflies of the cosmos.

    7. cluster M39 of Cygnus. It is located by extending the line through the lower part of the northern cross, east of the star Deneb, halfway to Cepheus. This is an open set (not a globular ball) of stars.

    8. star Albireo of Cygnus. It is the foot of the northern cross. This is a beautiful star pair, one topaz colored and the other sapphire colored.

    9. nebular shell M27 of Vulpecula. This lies about 2/3 of the way on a line between star Deneb and star Altair. This planetary is like a fancy bowtie.

    10. clusters M10 and M12 of Ophiuchus. It is located about the middle of the polygonal figure, a bit lower. These are globulars.

    11. cluster M11 of Scutum. It is located past the southern end of Aquila, below Serpens Cauda. It is a compact but open set of stars.

    12. cluster and nebula feast at the teapot dome. This is above the teapot figure formed by the brightest stars of Sagittarius. This area is so rich in M objects, I won't try to list them. Mostly, I want to see the nebular clouds M17 and M20. No wonder this is so rich; it's the center of the Milky Way galaxy, not a quiet place.

    13. cluster M6 and M7 of Scorpio. They are located between the Sagittarius teapot spout and the scorpion's stinger. More open star sets.

    14. Cluster M4 of Scorpio is near star Antares. It is a small globular.

    We may not succeed in finding all these from the backyard, but we will have fun trying. We are too lazy to mess with setting circles.

    In late August we expect to scope Mars in Aquarius and Uranus in Capricorn. But we expect only to see small colored disks. We will claim to the neighbors that we saw fiery flame blasts headed toward Earth ;).

    link --->
    listing of Messier objects
  13. Jul 1, 2003 #12
    Awesome descriptions on where those objects are located, thanks!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook