Constellation of the Month: Sagittarius

David Baumgartner writes that near the tip of the constellation's arrow is the point thought to be the center of the Milky Way.
David Baumgartner in an observatory in his old backyard. Photo provided by David Baumgartner.
David Baumgartner in an observatory in his old backyard. Photo provided by David Baumgartner.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

The most dense and beautiful area of the Milky Way is shared between the two bright constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius. Sagittarius is a group of stars you will notice right away, it looks just like a tea pot, once someone points it out to you that is.  

But ancient people saw an archer, a man drawing a bow and arrow. In Latin, saggitta means “arrow.” He is supposed to be a centaur, a mythical beast, half man and half horse. The archer is shooting his arrow at the scorpion’s heart (Antares). Near the tip of the arrow is the point that is thought to be the actual center of our Milky Way Galaxy.

It is odd that last month we talked about the constellation of Orion, where Orion was killed by the scorpion. Now this month we see Sagittarius, the archer, trying to put an end to the scorpion. No one seems to be vary happy up there in the skies. Although, Cygnus the swan seems to be happy, nothing seems to be after it.

In this area of Scorpius and Sagittarius is one of the most beautiful patches of sky that we can view from our home base. All this thick part of the Milky Way is spotted with clusters of stars, and nebulas. Two famous ones, beautiful in a telescope, lie just down and right from the top star of Sagittarius’s bow: the Trifid Nebula and the Lagoon Nebula. All you really need is a good pair of binoculars to take advantage of this area. See how many of those wonders you can pick out. Check with your star books, you will be amazed what you will find.

Have a good month of sky watching, and of course don’t forget we are entering the peak observing time for Mars, lasting through mid-December. 

Clear skies.

August Sky Watch

Aug. 18: New Moon

Aug. 21: Moon is closest to Earth (Perigee-225,876 miles)

Aug. 25: First Quarter Moon

Aug. 28: Moon passes 1.4° south of Jupiter

Aug. 29: Moon passes 2° south of Saturn

Aug. 29: Moon passes 1.2° south of Pluto


David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.