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The Night Sky Tonight: June 24 – July 7

By Mark Wagner

Mark Wagner brings us highlights of what's happening in the sky each night this week. Click on each image to enlarge the view. Happy gazing!

Friday, June 24
With this morning's waning crescent Moon at 25 days near apogee and only 22 degrees above the horizon, let's view some outstanding low power targets. (1) Crater Gassendi is easily observed in 10X Binoculars at the northern periphery of Mare Humorum. (2) Crater Dopplemayer is on the opposite shore of Mare Humorum showing its damaged and sunken northern rim gobbled by the sea's lava in 50mm instruments. Also with 50mm (3) Crater Keppler just north of the equator shows its extensive rays and high walls.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 10x50 Binocular Stargazing Kit II, Orion Observer II 70mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Evening: Green Turtle Planetary Nebula

Saturday, June 25
The Green Turtle Planetary Nebula in Hercules is designated NGC 6210. Located conveniently near midway between (B) Beta and 51 Herculi, its position is given away by a close pair of magnitude 6.8 and 7.3 stars visible in most finder scopes. Emitting OIII (Oxygen III) this dying star's shell glows green, giving it the popular name. You will see hints of its color and soft/fuzzy appearance even at lower magnification, but use high magnification to enjoy its color and an Ultrablock filter to enhance its spherical shape and overall bright appearance.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyLine 6" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope, 1.25" Orion UltraBlock NarrowBand Filter

Tomorrow Morning: Moon, Venus and More!

Sunday, June 26
Treat yourself this Saturday morning to a naked-eye view of the old Crescent Moon rising over the east-northeastern horizon accompanied by the Pleiades star cluster above, brilliant Venus astride, and planet Mercury offset to red Aldebaran all in the constellation Taurus. Get out and enjoy this sight for the first weekend of the new season!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Lawnchair and naked eyes, no equipment needed

Tomorrow Morning: Constellation Cassiopeia

Monday, June 27
Constellation Cassiopeia is usually thought of in terms of Greek mythology, but read up on the various interpretation of how other cultures saw this area, it is incredibly varied. In area Cassiopeia is 25th largest among the 88 modern constellations. The (A) Alpha star Schedar is a double shining at magnitude 2.2. Two Messier Catalog members, M103 and M52, are within its boundaries. Bordering constellations include (1) Lacerta, (2) Cepheus, (3) Camelopardalis, (4) Perseus and (5) Andromeda.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope, Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide Angle Binoculars

Tomorrow Evening: Double Star Alpha Herculis

Tuesday, June 28
(A) Alpha Herculis is the star Rasalgethi, meaning "Head of the kneeling one" in Arabic. A red supergiant 360 light years distant, it is a semi-regular variable ranging 0.6 magnitudes, although reported to have varied from magnitude 2.7 to 4.0. This is an excellent binary double star for any telescope with a red primary at magnitude 3.8 separated 4.64 arc-seconds from its magnitude 5.4 blue companion. The pair has a 3600 year orbital period and the primary has a diameter twice as large as Earth's orbit.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 114mm GoTo Reflector without Controller, Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Carbon Star V0623 Cassiopeia

Wednesday, June 29
V0623 Cas is a fine carbon and variable star at the boundaries of Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis and Perseus. The star is quite orange and will stand out even in a finderscope. Get to it from drawing a line from (G) Gamma Cas through (D) Delta Cas to (E) Eta Persei. From Eta in your finder you will note three magnitude 4 stars and one magnitude 5. Just off the mag 5 star find your target, with a fun easy hop!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyLine 6" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope, Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Hercules Variable Star

Thursday, June 30
AC Herculis is a favorite target for variable star observers. With a short period of 75 days and a wide range from magnitude 6.85 to 9.0 you can expect to see changes over a week, currently nearing its midpoint (dimmest). Use (V) Vega and (R) Rasalhague, alpha stars in Lyra and Ophiuchus, and imagine a line to find the magnitude 4.2 and 3.8 stars noted. AC Herculis is the top star in a small equilateral triangle. If you see changes over a few nights, let us know here!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope, Orion SkyLine 8" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: The ET Cluster

Friday, July 1
The E.T. Cluster in Cassiopeia is NGC 457, an open cluster anchored by magnitude 4.9 (P) Phi Cassiopeia. At magnitude 6.4 and 13 arc-minutes size, this is a bright cluster and very evident even in small telescopes. This sketch by Jeremy Perez was through 15x70 binoculars. Phi and a neighboring magnitude 7 star define the imagined E.T. movie character's eyes, with body and arms below and to the sides. Expect to find a rich cluster of up to 150 magnitude 9 to 13 stars.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 15x70 Astronomical Binocular & HD-F2 Tripod Bundle, Orion Observer II 70mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Evening: Young Moon Targets

Saturday, July 2
This morning's young Moon is a 4 day old and 14.5% illuminated waxing crescent, perfect for low power views. Using a 10X binocular try viewing craters (1) Janssen and (2) Scott. Janssen is 115 miles diameter right on the Terminator. Scott at half Janssen's size is very close to the lunar South Pole featuring high walls. Obvious in the north is (3) Crater Atlas, 53 miles diameter with high terraced walls and central peak, use 50mm instruments. (4) Crater Macrobius northwest of Mare Crisium is 65 miles diameter also features terraced walls and a central peak, giving excellent views in 50mm.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion Observer 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Morning: Messier 52 in Cassiopeia

Sunday, July 3
Messier 52 in Cassiopeia is a large and obvious coarse open cluster, easily located hopping from (A) Alpha through (B) Beta Cassiopeia equidistant beyond. Subtending 51 arc-minutes in size at magnitude 8.0, you'll see it first in your finder scope. Low magnification will fit the entire cluster in low focal ratio instruments. The outstanding sketch by Christopher Rice shows the range of magnitudes and coarse nature of the cluster visible in an 8" SCT at 156X magnification.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyLine 8" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon Targets

Monday, July 4
With tonight's Moon a 6 day old waxing crescent almost 31% illuminated, grab your 10X binoculars to view (1) Crater Theophilus in a chain with craters Cyrillus and Catharina extending south from the lunar equator. Use 50mm for Cyrillus to view the three central mountains and tormented floor within its 59 mile diameter. A 100mm shows 11 mile diameter (3) Crater Sosigenes' round lava filled floor and bright low walls shadowed nicely by the Terminator. If you have 300mm try (4) Rimae Sosigenes' parallel rilles running 90 miles north-south.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: M103 in Cassiopeia

Tuesday, July 5
M103 in Cassiopeia is truly a jewel of an open cluster. Containing a handful of bright colorful stars in a triangular shape, this cluster is somewhat distant between 8,000 and 9,200 light years. It subtends 6 arc-minutes of sky at magnitude 7.4, with up 60 dim members appearing as a hazy glow. Easy to find, located (D) Delta Cassiopeia and move 1 degree east. This sketch by Jeremy Perez is through a 6" Orion Skyview Pro at 75X.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Observer 114mm Equatorial Reflector Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon Targets

Wednesday, July 6
Tonight's Moon is 8 days old 51% illuminated at 1st Quarter. Using 10X binoculars find (1) Crater Alphonsus bracketed by to its north by Ptolemaeus and south by (2) Arzachel. Alphonsus shows high terraced walls and a central mountain. 50mm for Arzachel shows steep slopes and high terraced walls. With 100mm 10 mile diameter (3) Crater Birt sits between the Straight Wall to its east, and Rima Birt to its west.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 10x50 E-Series Waterproof Binoculars, Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Binary Star Eta Cassiopeia

Thursday, July 7
Binary Star Eta Cassiopeia is an excellent target for any telescope. The primary member is a yellow star often referred to as the Sun's twin, as it is what our star would look like from the same distance. Shining at magnitude 3.52, the primary member of this binary is a wide 13.4 arc-seconds from it magnitude 7.36 copper colored companion. The companion's color is so striking it is also known as the Copper Penny. Find this pair just under 2 degrees northeast of (A) Alpha Cassiopeia, Schedar.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope, Orion SkyLine 8" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon Targets




Charts from Starry Night Pro. M52 sketch by Christopher Rice. NGC 6210, ET Cluster, M103 and Eta Cass sketches by Jeremy Perez. Lunar images from NASA LRO, Other images from Virtual Moon Atlas and Starry Night Pro.

Mark Wagner is a lifelong astronomy enthusiast and deep sky observer in the San Francisco bay area. Visit our Facebook Page if you'd like to post comments, questions, sketches or images you've taken to our Night Sky Tonight post.