What's In The Sky - August 2022

Summer nights offer us views of the Milky Way high overhead and transiting the meridian by midnight, full of eye candy for binoculars and telescopes. As night wears on, we enter the realm of early fall objects, fewer bright stars, as the deep environs of our local universe take center stage.

Moon And Jupiter Conjunction
Watch for this terrific pairing on the night of August 15. The Moon will be large, just past full at 86% illumination and waning gibbous. Jupiter will be large too, over 47 arc-seconds and shining at magnitude -2.76, as it closes in on opposition in late September. Now is the time to begin watching this eyepiece gem, as it will grow in size only one more arc-seconds at opposition.

New Moon
This month, the new Moon falls on Saturday, August 27, great for deep sky enthusiasts who travel to local dark sky sites, making this month perhaps the peak of summertime observing. Take friends and family along for a full night under the stars, the darker the better as conditions favor us with the last new moon of summer 2022.

As the month progresses, two fantastic objects climb in the sky over the eastern horizon. Messier 31 (M31) is the famous Andromeda Galaxy, which in telescopes can be seen with M32 and M110 in darker skies. Just below in the constellation Triangulum is a dimmer galaxy, the awesome face-on spiral M33, showing numerous winding arms with embedded glowing star-forming nebulae. Both are targets for binoculars, but take the largest telescope you are able to transport to a dark sky for tremendous views.

The Summer Milky Way
If you can, make your way to a dark site. The Milky Way continues to be the grandest show in astronomy this month. Crossing the meridian early, in dark enough skies, you'll see the bulge of our galactic center arcing though Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. Dark lanes and rifts will rise into Aquila and Cygnus. In Cygnus on great nights, tendrils of dark lanes will wind themselves out into the starry edges leading back toward Deneb, where you'll see the ultimate blackness of the Northern Coal Sack. Don't miss this — it's a year till the next August show!

August Challenge Object
Planetary nebulae abound in our summer skies. Some are full of detail, others are stellar requiring blinking with a filter to confirm. A few, notably the Abell Planetaries, tend to be ghostly shells requiring patience and experience to view. Among the challenges is the dim horseshoe-shaped, planetary Jones-Emberson 1, sometimes called the "headphone Nebula." It's a short star-hop from Pegasus' alpha star Markab, the southwest corner of the Great Square. Locate this target at R.A. 07h 57m 51.628 and Dec. +53° 25' 16.96" — it is best viewed with a narrowband filter such as the Orion Ultrablock, dimming the field background and allowing the object's visible wavelengths to seem more prominent. Is it dim? Without question at an apparent magnitude of 14 spread over a large quoted 400 arc-seconds diameter.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.