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The Night Sky Tonight: June 26 – July 9

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 26
The open cluster NGC 457 is known by several names including the Owl Cluster. Located a short hop off the W shape of Cassiopeia, it is easily found at the double star Phi Cass. Phi is an amazing 12,081 light years distant. Phi is one of the eyes in Owl Cluster, shining at magnitude 5.0. The cluster is seen here in Jeremy Perez's sketch. It was discovered in 1787 by Sir William Herschel, is 7,800 light years away, and covers 13 arc-minutes at magnitude 6.4. This is a fine target even in binoculars.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 10x50 Binocular Stargazing Kit II, Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon Targets

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Saturday, June 27
Tonight's Moon is nearly perigee at 6.91 days old and 48.3% illumination. Here are Moon targets for 50 mm instrument. (1) Cassini is 35 miles diameter with a flat lava filled floor supporting internal craters. (2) Aristillus and (3) Autolycus are a great pair of craters. Aristillus is 35 miles circular with rays, very steep slopes, terraced walls, flat floor and three central mountains. Autolycus' 24 mile diameter has steep walls, terraces, a flat floor and central mountain. (4) Mons Hadley is 15 miles diameter and 14,500 feet tall, as the northern most of the Apennine Mountains.

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Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Observer II 70mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope, Orion Shorty 1.25" 2x Barlow Lens

Tomorrow Morning: Shadow Transit And Asteroid

Sunday, June 28
If you can observe for an hour early tomorrow morning you'll see the opposition of asteroid 7 Iris and a shadow transit of Io on Jupiter. 7 Iris is a main belt asteroid at magnitude 8.9, 214 km diameter at 1.67 A.U. from Earth. It was discovered by John Russell Hind August 13, 1847. The inset is a finder view using star 21 Sagittarii (magnitude 4.78) above the Teapot asterism. From the start of Io's shadow transit to its moving to the meridian on Jupiter, you should be able to detect motion of Iris 7 against the star field.

Skill Level: Advanced

Suggested Gear: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo 180mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XX14g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: 100mm Moon Targets

Monday, June 29
Tonight's Moon is 70.8% illuminated at 8.9 days old, in waxing gibbous phase toward perigee. Here are some well placed targets for 100 mm or larger instruments: (1) Stadius T is an outstanding chain of craterlets running 48 miles northwest/southeast of famous Copernicus. (2) Crater Fauth is 7 miles in diameter, on the south slope of Copernicus and nicknamed "hole of lock". (3) Domes Gambart C is a raised area 8 miles diameter to the southwest of crater Gambart C. To its southwest is (4) Frau Mauro Eta, a north/south oriented mountain 12 miles long and six miles wide.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope, Orion Shorty 1.25" 2x Barlow Lens

Tomorrow Morning: Open Cluster M103

Tuesday, June 30
Messier 103 (M103) is a jewel of a small open cluster easily found using the W asterism of the constellation Cassiopeia. At visual magnitude 7.4 in an area of 6 arc-minutes, several bright stars giving it a triangular appearance. Larger telescopes will reveal 50-60 stars in this fairly rich cluster. This is one of the farthest known open clusters at a distance between 8,000 to 9,500 light years. First discovery was in 1781 by Charles Messier's friend Pierre Méchain.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, 1.25" Orion 13% Transmission Moon Filter

Tomorrow Evening: Waxing Gibbous Moon

Wednesday, July 1
This waxing gibbous Moon is 10.9 days old at 88.9% illumination. Here are some interesting targets for 200mm or larger instruments: (1) Gruithuisen Zeta is a hemispherical volcanic dome complex 1.8 miles in diameter with at least two summit crater pits. (2) Marius Hills is a large area of volcanism, with literally dozens of domes, some containing crater pits. This is a wonderful area to explore at high magnification. (3) Rimae Gassendi is a series of ramified rilles running the length of the arena of Gassendi, some perpendicular to the main rilles.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, Orion Shorty 1.25" 2x Barlow Lens

Tomorrow Morning: Carbon Star NQ Cassiopeia

Thursday, July 2
NQ Cassiopeia is a carbon star located close to (L) Lambda Cass, an easy hop from (A) Alpha. This is a pulsating variable red star, over 15,500 light years distant in 2007, and over 85 times our Sun's diameter (estimated at over 59 million km). In 1997, its distance was estimated at 5,800 light years. It can theoretically be viewed in 7x50 binoculars, but you should use a telescope to star hop as shown in the inset. A slow irregular variable, its range is only 0.2 magnitudes, but its color is what is notable.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope, Orion DualBeam 2600mAH LED Waterproof Astro Lantern

Tomorrow Evening: Big Moon Binocular Targets

Friday, July 3
Get your binoculars out for tonight's nearly Full Moon. Near the north pole (1) Crater Pythagoras will show its double central mountain, 14,500 foot high walls and flat floor. On the limb in Oceanus Procellarum is (2) Crater Eddington, 81 miles diameter with a flat floor and broken southeastern wall. Near the lunar equator are (3) Crater Hevelius with a diameter of 64 miles, internal craterlets and only a few high walls, and (4) Grimaldi, a circular feature 134 miles in diameter, filled with dark lava and almost no walls.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Scenix 7x50 Binoculars, Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars

Tomorrow Evening: Full Moon

Saturday, July 4
This first Full Moon of Summer sits over the part of our sky toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, in Sagittarius. To the west is Scorpius' bright star Antares, with Jupiter and Saturn along the Ecliptic trailing to the east. Each month's Full Moon has a name, varying by culture. Which do you know for the July Full Moon?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Beginning Stargazer's Toolkit, 30-50 degree, Orion DualBeam 2600mAH LED Waterproof Astro Lantern

Tomorrow Morning: Jupiter Shadow Transit

Sunday, July 5
Tomorrow Jupiter has a shadow transit cast by the moon Io, crossing the planet's disk beginning at 04:08 PDT. Io itself will ingress starting at 04:21. Additionally, the Great Red Spot (GRS) will rotate into view beginning at 03:57. Watch as the moon and its shadow outpace the GRS as planet and moon move toward the meridian. Sunrise brightening will shorten our view, but the combination of a big Moon, these Jovian events, and Saturn nearby give us plenty to enjoy.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Suggested Gear: Orion 150mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube, Orion 180mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube

Tomorrow Evening: Jupiter Shadow Transit

Monday, July 6
Look to the southeast for Jupiter at 22:30 tonight and watch Io approach the planet. Its shadow will enter (ingress) the disk at 22:37. The Great Red Spot (GRS) will be well past the meridian when Io ingresses the disk at 22:47 closely following its shadow. The GRS will spin to the limb by 23:53 before disappearing with both Io and it shadow crossing the meridian. Io's shadow will egress the disk an hour later at 00:54. Other objects nearby to observe while this Jovian action takes place are Saturn and a big Moon.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Suggested Gear: Orion Jupiter Map & Observing Guide, 1.25" Orion Jupiter Observation Eyepiece Filter

Tomorrow Morning: Binocular Moon Targets

Tuesday, July 7
This morning's Moon is 16.22 days old and 94.1% illuminated. Take out your 10X Binocular for well illuminated views of these targets: (1) Crater Endymion is 76 miles diameter with a flat dark floor and high walls to the southeast. (2) Crater Cleomedes is just north of (3) Mare Crisium, 76 miles diameter containing a small central mountain and rimae visible at higher magnification. Mare Crisium is 345 x 375 miles lengthened east to west, with a very flat floor and wrinkle ridges at its shores. (4) Crater Petavius is 107 miles diameter with high walls, terraces and central mountain. Its straight rimae is visible at higher magnification.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion Paragon HD-F2 Heavy Duty Tripod

Tomorrow Evening: Asteroid 532 Herculina

Wednesday, July 8
Asteroid 532 Herculina is just past opposition and an easy target for star hopping off the Teapot of Sagittarius. Watching over an hour will allow you to see its movement as indicated in the upper inset with the arrow. Use (D) Delta and (L) Lambda Sagittarii to find magnitude 5.8 and 5.9 stars (2) and (1). The lower inset shows (1) and (2) in line with a magnitude 8.9 star below 532 Herculina which will be at magnitude 9.5. This is a main belt asteroid with a 4.62 year orbit discovered in 1904 by Max Wolf in Heidelberg Germany.

Skill Level: Advanced

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XX14i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: 50mm Moon Targets

Thursday, July 9
This morning our Moon is 18.22 days old and 81.2% illuminated moving close to apogee. These targets for 50mm instruments are in excellent position: (1) Crater Hercules is on the Terminator with its 42 mile diameter dramatically lit. Look for high walls with terraces and floor craterlet. (2) Crater Posidonius is 58 miles diameter with remarkable double wall, internal crater and rimae visible with higher magnification. (3) Rupes Cauchy is a 73 mile long rectilinear fault running northwest to southeast. (4) Crater Piccolomini is 53 miles diameter with high walls supporting terraces, and a large central mountain with four summits.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion Large Binocular Tripod L-Adapter

Tomorrow Evening: Constellation Ophiuchus




Charts from Starry Night Pro. NGC 457 and M103 sketches courtesy Jeremy Perez. Unattributed lunar photos courtesy Robert Reeves.

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.