Farewell Dark Skies

For the last week I have been heading out to my rooftop to see the constellation Hercules and the bright globular cluster that resides there. Even just using binoculars the view is amazing.

Also found in the same region is the constellation of Lyra, which holds the planetary Ring Nebula. It looks like a perfect smoke ring floating in space. Though not visible with binoculars, the view through a telescope is one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky.

The constellation Cygnus the Swan, also known as the Northern Cross, offers up some of the most impressive views with binoculars or telescopes of any size.

Through binoculars there are star clusters and star chains that seem to make a road map that explores this magnificent constellation.

Looking through a telescope there is so much to see in and around Cygnus. I always start my journey with the bright binary star Alberio. Found at the bottom of the cross, this is one of the night skies’ most magnificent blue-gold stars. You will need a small telescope to see the split between the two stars.

Moving to the top of the cross, or the tail of the swan, depending on how you look at the constellation, there awaits celestial treasure.

First locate the bright star Deneb and then slowly scan the surrounding area. Under clear skies you can see the North American Nebula, a large diffuse emission nebula. It can be seen using binoculars and gets its name from its shape. Using a wide-field telescope it is a marvel to see. A gas cloud makes up the basic shape of the nebula, with a field of stars sprinkled in front.

All of these constellations are more visible in the darker fall skies, so observing them now is a bonus.

The long days of light and disappearance of the night sky does not mean that there is nothing to observe. The Moon with its craters, mountain ranges, and vast lunar seas offers plenty to the observer. Using a filter on your binoculars or telescope can make a big difference in boosting the contrast.

There will be planets for observing, too. Venus has come out from the Sun’s glare to move into the evening skies.

Saturn is up high and still visible for an hour or so in the late night/early morning. On June 12 Mercury is furthest away from the Sun, approximately 24 degrees to the east in the evening sky. You will be able to see this little planet with binoculars or a small telescope.

On June 23 there is a full moon that is also the largest moon of the year. They are calling it the Solstice Super Moon.

Enjoy your summer and we will see you again in September when the dark skies return. Thank you for all your support. I’m looking forward to exploring those incredible Yukon Night Skies with you this fall.

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