What's Up this month? Take a summer road trip along the Milky Way
What's Up for July? Use Saturn as your guide to a tour of the summer Milky Way.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Saturn continues to dazzle this month. Its wide rings and golden color provide a nice contrast to nearby Mars and Antares. Below Saturn lies the constellation Scorpius, which really does look like a scorpion! Through binoculars or telescopes you'll be able to spot two pretty star clusters: a compact (or globular) cluster, M-4, and an open cluster, M-7. M-7 is known as Ptolemy's cluster. It was observed and cataloged by Greek-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy in the first century.
Climbing north, you'll be able to spot the teapot shape which forms part of the constellation Sagittarius. The center of the Milky Way is easy to see. It looks like bright steam rising from the teapot's spout. With difficulty, and a good star chart and a medium-sized telescope you can locate faint Pluto in the "teaspoon" adjacent to the teapot.
A binocular tour of this center core of the Milky Way reveals many beautiful summer sky objects. We first encounter the Eagle Nebula, M-16. Part of this nebula is featured in the famous and beautiful "Pillars of Creation" images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
You'll have to stay up later to see the northern Milky Way constellations, which are better placed for viewing later in the summer and fall. Cygnus the swan features the prettiest supernova remnant in the entire sky, the Veil Nebula. It's too big to fit in one eyepiece view, but luckily there are three sections of it. Look between Aquila and Cygnus to find three tiny constellations: Delphinus the dolphin, Vulpecula the fox and Lyra the lyre (or harp). M-57, the Ring Nebula, is the remains from a shell of ionized gas expelled by a red giant star into the surrounding interstellar medium. It's pretty, too! Look in Vulpecula for the Dumbbell, another planetary nebula.
We'll end our summer tour with Lacerta the lizard and Draco the Dragon. Lacerta is home to a star with an extrasolar planet in its orbit, and Draco, facing away from the center of our Milky Way, is a treasure trove of distant galaxies to catch in your telescope.
You can catch up on current missions and space telescopes studying our Milky Way and beyond at www.nasa.gov.
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.