August Night Sky

As we enter August dark skies are again available, and the Milky Way is at its best running south from Cygnus overhead through Aquila to Sagittarius near the southern horizon at about 9.30. The Milky Way can be enjoyed in many ways – under clear skies away from city lights, and when your eyes are fully dark adapted (be patient, it takes about 20 minutes ) it is a wonderful sight with the naked eye. Scan it with a pair of binoculars, and you will see thousands of stars of varying colours and groupings. You can do the same with a telescope – rather than look for particular objects, I sometimes just sweep this part of the sky, enjoying the richness on view.

But much of this is available for some months to come. August  is your one good chance to enjoy our view towards the centre of our galaxy in Sagittarius, far south in our sky but well enough placed now. Sweeping is enjoyable here, too, but you should take the chance of looking it its highlights, particularly M17 (The Eagle Nebula), and M20 (The Triffid), and close by M8 (The Lagoon) . All are bright nebulae involved in star formation, with nearby star clusters. All benefit from the use of a Nebula or OIII filter if you have one, as they highlight their gaseous regions against the sky background. Some imagination helps, too. The Eagle Nebula is the site of the famous Pillars of Creation that the Hubble telescope has made so famous;  viewing with your eye in even a large telescope will give you a very different view of faint, diffuse patches of light. But you can still think of the detail that lies beneath it!