had its ups and downs for observing the stars. Some very clear
nights were plagued by three problems -- wind, high humidity, and
pretty easy to use a telescope when the wind is blowing less than 10
mph. It’s a whole different story trying to make observations in a 25
mph wind. If your scope is exposed, the wind causes vibrations
that make it difficult to focus on an object. Even large, easy
objects like the moon appear blurry because of the wind.
easy fix for creating a wind block is finding a shelter, such as moving
to the leeward side of a porch or using a hedge as a wind break.
The big drawback is that you reduce the area of the sky you can
see. And it always seems the really interesting objects are on
the windy side of the shelter. In June, the prevailing wind was
out of the southwest, making it difficult to see some of the
spectacular nebulae and galaxies that appeared just above the southern
humidity and light pollution work hand in hand to further reduce the
visible sky. If you look at a street light on a humid Hatteras
Island night you will see a halo around it. The water vapor in
the air acts like billions of little prisms that reflect the light from
street lights, house lights, and other sources of uncontrolled light.
The cumulative effect is a halo over each of the villages. This
light pollution halo reduces the number of stars that are visible in
the night sky. Many progressive towns and cities such as Nags
Head have taken action to reduce light from street lights by using
fixtures that direct the light down to the street.
In spite of the wind, the high humidity, and the light pollution, I was
able to capture pictures of two interesting nebulae—the Omega Nebula
and the Apple Core Nebula.
M17 is called the Omega Nebula and sometimes referred to as the Swan
Nebula. It was discovered in 1745. It’s about 5,500 light
years away and is composed of interstellar matter.
is often called the Apple Core Nebula or the Dumbbell Nebula. It is a
planetary nebula that’s about 1,400 light years away. It was discovered
JULY SKY WATCHING
the evenings of June 30 and July 1, Venus will be in conjunction with
Jupiter, which means that Venus will appear to be in front of the
larger, more distant planet. When you look at them using your
unaided eye, it will appear to look like a very bright Venus. But
you might be able to distinguish the two planets if you use a good pair
of binoculars or a small telescope. The conjunction of the two
planets will be easy to find -- Venus is the bright object just above
the western horizon.
also has a blue moon! That means we get to see two full moons in
the same month. The first is July 1, the second is on the 31.
Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower will peak on the night of July 28.
It can produce up to 20 shooting stars per hour. Best
viewing will be after midnight. The meteors can appear anywhere in the
sky but will seem to originate in the constellation Aquarius.
Aquarius will be fully visible near the southeast horizon at
is visible in the southeast as soon the sun sets. Don’t
confuse it with the bright red star Antares. Saturn is the higher and
brighter of the two objects. As July goes by, both will start the
night higher in the sky and further towards the south.
readers have asked about spotting the International Space Station.
The easiest way to find out when it will be in view on Hatteras
and Ocracoke islands is to sign up for automatic notifications at http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.
- Full Moon is July 1 and 31.
- Last Quarter July 8.
- New Moon is July 15.
- First Quarter is the July 24.
planetary nebula is an expanding glowing shell of gas. The
gas is believed to be the ejected outer layers of a red star that
is collapsing into a white dwarf.
emission nebula is a cloud of gas that has been ionized by a source of
energy, usually a near-by star. The ionization causes the gas to
Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Washington, D.C. He has visited Hatteras Island since the
mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several
years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.
Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in
and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory
next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky
through e-mail, [email protected].)