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.
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