August 2, 2020 – Clouds in my Coffee

Maybe milk in my tea?

It’s deep summertime with warm evenings and the Milky Way spilling out of the teapot.  Like steam rising, the Milky Way’s presence is prominent in Sagittarius and its famous Teapot asterism.  Not familiar with the Teapot?

It takes little imagination to visualize the Teapot of Sagittarius.  Once you’ve seen it you won’t forget.  You just need to know where to look.  Wait until well after the Sun has set, at least 9pm.  Look to the southeast about 15 degrees above the horizon.  Jupiter should be up and bright.  Sagittarius is just west of Jupiter now.  Scan around west of Jupiter for a pattern of stars that looks like a teapot.  You might see the lid first, a triangle, or the spout, another triangle of stars.  Keep tracing along the brighter stars and you should be able to make out the pot and handle too.  This is what we are aiming at.  With binoculars that is.  If you want a closer look, use a spotting scope or telescope if you have one.  Go for it!

Just a point of reference, our galaxy’s center is in the direction about 2 degrees north and four degrees west of the Teapot’s spout tip.

Let’s start outside the Teapot.  About 5 degrees west of epsilon, the bright bottom right star of the pot, is a nice open cluster called M7.  A smaller open cluster, M6 (the Butterfly Cluster) is about four degrees northwest of M7.  Both should be visible in the same binocular field.  In fact, many of the wonderful Sagittarius objects can be seen in the same binocular field.  While looking at M6 look east and find some objects around the Teapot’s spout tip.  They are dimmer globular and open clusters (NGC 6522, 6528, 6520)

Moving ten degrees north from M7 The Lagoon (M8), and at fifteen degrees north, the Trifid (M20) nebulae are pretty in wide field views.

Looking at the Teapot lid you will see a nice globular cluster northeast of the lid tip.  That’s M22.  Just to the north-northwest of the lid tip is a dimmer globular cluster, M28. About five degrees above the lid tip is a bright star (mu).  Use it as the anchor for a slew of objects just north of it.  About 3 degrees north A Star Cloud named M24 is surrounded by faint open clusters M23 to the west, M25 to the east, M18 and nebula M17 to the north.

Back in the Teapot, there are several fainter globular clusters.  Going left along the base from epsilon, the bright lower right star of the pot are M69, M70, and M54.

That’s just the Teapot of Sagittarius.  There are a bunch of sights surrounding Sagittarius so venture out and catch some.

What’s in the Sky?

August 9; an hour before sunrise; high in the south: A waning gibbous Moon gets within one degree of Mars.