09/03/2015 – Ephemeris – Jewels in the shield
Ephemeris for Thursday, September 3rd. The Sun will rise at 7:07. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 8:16. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:26 this evening.
The teapot pattern of stars that is the constellation of Sagittarius lies at the southern end of the Milky Way this evening. It appears that the Milky Way is steam rising from the spout. The area above Sagittarius in the brightest part of the Milky Way is the dim constellation of Scutum the shield. Don’t bother looking for the stars that make up the constellation; what’s important is the star clouds of the Milky Way. Scan this area with binoculars or small telescope for star clusters and nebulae or clouds of gas. In binoculars both clusters and nebulae will appear fuzzy, but a small telescope will tell most of them apart. Even if you’ve never been able to find anything in your telescope, you’ll find something here.
Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.
Star hopping is a method to find objects from familiar star patterns. At the top my method to find M11, the wild duck cluster is to locate the three stars at the tail of Aquila the Eagle and follow them to M11. M11 takes a little bigger telescope to resolve. I remember having trouble resolving it is a 5″ telescope. It looks like a triangular cluster with all the stars of the same dimness except one brighter one.
At the bottom of Scutum, I locate that distinctive 5 star group circled. Directly west is M16, the Eagle Nebula and star cluster. The star cluster is easy to spot, the nebula is hard. The Hubble space telescope made the nebula famous in the 1990’s as the Pillars of Creation.
Below and west is M17, the Omega Nebula, or the Swan Nebula. To me it looks like a swan swimming or a check mark of nebulosity. The associated star cluster is much less noticeable.
Happy star hopping.