Archive for August 25, 2014

08/25/2014 – Ephemeris – Cool treasures in the constellation of Lyra

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 25th.  The sun rises at 6:56.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 8:31.  The moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The bright star Vega will be nearly overhead tonight at 10 p.m.   It will be about 6 degrees south of the zenith.  That’s quite a stretch of the neck to spot, with its accompanying stars in a small parallelogram that make up the constellation of Lyra the harp.  Lyra has some interesting features for a serious observer with and without a telescope.  The bottom right star of the parallelogram, if south is toward the bottom, is a star called Beta Lyrae that changes brightness by a factor of 3 in a period of 13 days.  Another star near Vega looks like two close stars in binoculars, in telescopes each is again a double stars.  That’s Epsilon Lyrae.  The jewel of this constellation needs a telescope to find between the two bottom stars of the parallelogram, the famous Ring Nebula.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.


A bi more stars than what will be seen in binoculars of the constellation Lyra.  Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

A bi more stars than what will be seen in binoculars of the constellation Lyra. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

In the chart above:

The star designated α is Vega
The star designated β is Beta Lyrae
The stars designated ε1 and ε1 is Epsilon Lyrae
The object designated M57 is the Ring Nebula

Ring Nebula 1

The Ring Nebula. Visually one cannot detect the color. It takes a large telescope to see the central star. Credit: Stellarium.

The Ring Nebula, AKA M57 by amateur astronomers, is a planetary nebula.  The name planetary is a misnomer.  Many of these objects look like the dim planets Uranus and Neptune.  They are really stars like the sun, in their death throes puffing out their outer layers of gas at the end of their red giant stage.  See below the latest image of the Ring Nebula I recently found on the Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog.  It includes an explanation of what’s in the image.

Deep Ring Nebula

Photo by NASA, ESA, and C. R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University) and Robert Gendler

Click on the image to get lost in the Ring Nebula!