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Tonight in Binoculars:

Look for
our nearest large neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, high in the sky throughout all of this month. Learn more

Perseids bright meteors shower, Peak Night is August 12-13 after midnight. Look to the NE for Perseus to come up about midnight.


Look for M13 in Hercules. This is a globular cluster that lies along the western edge of the constellation Hercules. The cluster contains a half million stars. It is a spectacular sight in a telescope but is also worthwhile in binoculars.

Watch the crescent moon dance between the planets from night to night. You can see how each night the moon becomes more full. Soon the moon shine will overpower the stars and only the brightest ones may be seen. This is why most observers wait for days near new moon when there is the least amount of interfering light. However during moon nights the moon becomes the object for observation. Many will track the shadows on the moon cast by the craters and mountains each evening.

Planets line up to make easy targets for
binoculars or the naked eye. All you need to do is follow the sun going down in the evening to see five of our solar system neighbors. Mercury being the innermost planet will stay close to the sun and will follow off the horizon. Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be easy to spot, for they will be the brightest objects in the western sky.

Now turn your binoculars from the planets to the nearby bright stars. Notice the difference from the stars pinpoint of light to the small bright disks of a the planets.

Look in Ursa Major to find several
binocular targets. First look in the middle of the "Big Dipper's" handle. The Big Dipper is one of many asterisms, a distinctive group of stars that's not one of the 88 constellations. The star at the bend is Mizar. Now Mizar is a true binary, but it has an apparent double that is easily seen with binoculars.

If you have a good star chart you can look for M81 and M82, two galaxies that are in the same field of view. On a very clear dark night these two can even be seen with binoculars.

In the constellation Cancer look for the Beehive M 44), an easy to find open clusters. It can be found half way between Gemini's bright star Pollux and Leo's bright star Regulus. This method of locating objects is know as star hoping. It employs relative distances from familiar stars, rather then using exact coordinates.

With the moon close to full, this is a good time to learn the brightest stars. On nights like this, you can easily learn a good number of stars with the aid of a planisphere. You won't need binoculars for this exercise but by using them you can see how even the slightest optical aid brings more stars into view.

At magnitude -1.42 Sirius ( SEAR-ee-us ) is our brightest star. Tonight it can easily be found in the southwestern sky even with the moon at 71% full. With Binoculars you can find M46 and M47, two open star cluster in the same field of view.They can be found just a little higher in the sky then Sirius and a little further south. These two together make for one of my favorite binocular views.

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