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Star Gazing - July 13, 2020

MONDAY, JULY 13

■ Starry Scorpius is sometimes called "the Orion of Summer" — for its brightness, its blue-white giant
stars, and its prominent red supergiant (Antares in the case of Scorpius, Betelgeuse for Orion). But
Scorpius passes a lot lower across the southern sky than Orion does, for those of us at mid-northern
latitudes. That means it has only one really good evening month: July.

Catch Scorpius due south soon after dark, before it starts to tilt lower toward the southwest. It's full of
deep-sky objects to hunt out with good charts using a telescope or even binoculars. Of course, you'll need
to know how to use sky charts with a telescope.

TUESDAY, JULY 14

■ Jupiter is at opposition tonight, opposite the Sun as seen from Earth. For all practical purposes, this is
when Jupiter is its closest and brightest for the year. All this July and August Jupiter is the brightest point
in the night, until Venus rises in the early morning hours.

■ Three doubles at the top of Scorpius. The head of Scorpius — the near-vertical row of three stars upper
right of Antares — stands highest in the south right after dark. The top star of the row is Beta Scorpii or
Graffias, a fine double star for telescopes.

Just 1° below it is the very wide naked-eye pair Omega1 and Omega2 Scorpii, not quite vertical. They're
both 4th magnitude. Binoculars show their slight color difference; they're spectral types B9 and G2.

Left of Beta by 1.6° is Nu Scorpii, another fine telescopic double. Or rather triple. High power in good
seeing reveals Nu's brighter component itself to be a close binary, separation 2 arcseconds and aligned
almost north-south.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15

■ At the end of these long summer twilights, check the sky low in the northwest and north. Would you
recognize noctilucent clouds if you saw them? They're the most astronomical of all cloud types, being
formed on meteor dust very high in the upper atmosphere. They're fairly rare, though they've been
growing more common in recent decades as Earth's atmosphere changes. See Bob King's Nights of
Noctilucent Clouds.

THURSDAY, JULY 16

■ One of the nice summer star clusters for binoculars is IC 4665 just over the eastern shoulder of
Ophiuchus. It's large but sparse, with ten 7th- and 8th-magnitude stars spanning about a third of a degree.
In a telescope they seem to me spell, raggedly, the greeting "HI" (when south-southwest is oriented up).

Why does an object this noticeable bear only an IC number? It was independently discovered and recorded
at least four times between 1745 and 1908, when Solon Bailey at Harvard finally added it into the Index
Catalogue being appended to the NGC. See Matt Wedel's Binocular Highlight story and chart in the July
Sky & Telescope, page 43.

■ On Friday morning the 17th, the waning Moon groups up in a triangle with bright Venus and much
fainter Aldebaran as shown below.

Waning Moon, Venus and Mercury at dawn: July 17, 18, 19, 2020

The thinning crescent Moon in the dawn poses with Venus, then it passes low little Mercury. (The Moon
is shown three times its actual apparent size. The visibility of the fainter objects in bright twilight is
exaggerated.)


FRIDAY, JULY 17

■ As summer progresses, bright Arcturus is moving down the western side of the evening sky. Its pale
ginger-ale tint always helps identify it.

Arcturus forms the bottom point of the Kite of Bootes. The Kite, rather narrow, extends upper right from
Arcturus by 23°, about two fists at arm's length. The top of the kite is bent slightly down, as if something
banged into it.

SATURDAY, JULY 18

■ The tail of Scorpius is low in the south after dark, lower right of the Sagittarius Teapot. How low depends
on how far north or south you live: the farther south, the higher.

Look for the two stars especially close together in the tail. These are Lambda and fainter Upsilon Scorpii,
known as the Cat's Eyes. They're canted at an angle; the cat is tilting his head and winking.

A line through the Cat's Eyes points west (right) by nearly a fist-width toward Mu Scorpii, a much tighter
pair known as the Little Cat's Eyes. They're oriented almost exactly the same way as Lambda and
Upsilon. Can you resolve the Mu pair without using binoculars? It takes sharp eyes!
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh
current night sky over Nashville, TN
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