month, we continue down the Milky Way to our southern horizon. To
connect this map to the map found in June (Swan and Eagle), locate
the last two stars in the Eagle's tail. They are at the top of this
month's map and the bottom of last month's. Just south of the Eagle,
there is a small, dim parallelogram called Scutum, the Shield. You
might not see it from a light-polluted area, but if you can see the
Milky Way, you should find Scutum. The Milky Way in Scutum has been
called the most beautiful that can easily be seen from Canada. Binoculars
or a low-power telescope will reveal rich star fields. You might even
be able to find M11, the "Wild Duck" cluster, and M17, the "Swan"
nebula. Both are fairly prominent, and can get even prettier with
southward, just above the horizon, you will find the teapot asterism
that marks Sagittarius, the Archer. Now, I objected to hearing it
called the Teapot at first, but it sure is easier to find! This
small illustration shows the entire constellation - get to someplace
dark and see if you can trace it all. I darkened the lines it shares
with the teapot to get you started.
I have included four
more Messier objects in Sagittarius. You should easily be able to
find M8 and M20 in binoculars; M7 and M22 will be more challenging.
The star fields of the Milky Way in Sagittarius and Scorpius are
incredibly rich. This is hardly surprising, since the nucleus of
the Milky Way, the hub of our great spiral-wheel of stars, lies
buried in the dust and stars behind Sagittarius, some 30,000 light
From Canada, Scorpius is best
recognised by finding the orange star Antares, literally "Rival of Ares".
Ares is the ancient Greek name for the god of War that the Romans later
named Mars. Scorpius and Sagittarius are on the ecliptic, that planet
path, so ruddy Mars can pass fairly close to Antares. From Antares, look
east and you will find a vertical arc of stars, representing the scorpion's
claws. The bright one in the middle is delta scorpii, or Dschubba. Keep
an eye on it for a few years - it seems to be going through a mid-life
crisis, and has grown brighter and brighter over the past few years. Once
the fifth brightest in the constellation, it is now second only to Antares.
It will probably continue to brighten for a few more years, then become
dimmer for a number of years, then return to its original brightness.
So there you have it - the
Milky Way from zenith to horizon. Which area of the Milky Way do you like
best? Cygnus with its dark lanes, Scutum with its rich star fields, or
Sagittarius with its nebulae, clusters and star fields? On the other hand,
why choose? Whether you take a scope, binoculars or just the eyeballs
you were born with, go out and enjoy!