With the end of Monsoon Season approaching (yeaaa!), the Summer Milky Way will dominate the early evening sky once again.
The Milky Way is a nice backdrop into the late evening, and starting towards the South to Southwestern sky, there you will find the center of the Milky Way galaxy where a super-massive black hole resides, just, roughly, 30,000 light-years away from Earth. There is a familiar shape if the skies are steady and dark; The Dark Horse Nebula. The head is near the top, hind legs near the bottom, and thrilling when you can spot it and see it with just your eyes. Take the time one evening and see it for yourself!
The Dark Horse Nebula is actually made of several smaller dark nebula cataloged by E. E. Barnard. His catalog, named for his work, The Barnard Catalogue of Dark Markings in the Sky are scattered across the entire sky. For the Dark Horse, the hind legs are also known as The Pipe Nebula, as it resembles a tobacco smoking pipe.
As you turn your gaze towards the East, towards Ophiuchus the healer, Aquila the eagle, Cygnus the swan, you will see many dark clouds. They are actually dust patches which block starlight, some of which are seen easily with just your eyes, others more pronounced in any size binoculars.
Besides dust clouds, there are star clouds; areas of the Milky Way galaxy where the star density is so great in such a small area that shine very brightly. Within those areas it is easy to get lost among the stars. The star chart in last months’ Mogollon Rim News (save them throughout the year!) is still very much usable for this month though things have shifted towards the west and new constellations in the east. Use it to refer back to for your observing adventures. As a sneak peak of a future article, not directly below Polaris, a little toward the East, is Cassiopeia, a ‘W’ shaped constellation. Take the time to find it now!
Steven Aggas operates the Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory in Overgaard, Arizona. Dedicated to educational outreach and public observing of the Universe using the largest public observing telescope in the Southwest offering Visual Observing, Workshops, and Solar Viewing Fun. We also offer critical products you need for visual observing and digital imaging. To buy tickets or learn more about it, go to apache-sitgreaves.org.