Summer Nights


Our solar system sits on the inside edge of the Orion Arm, about two-thirds out from the galaxy's center. On a winter's night we look across the Orion Arm, past the Perseus Arm, and out into space, away from the Milky Way galaxy. Now that we are in the summer months we are looking toward the Sagittarius Arm and the galactic center of the Milky Way. To find the center of the Milky Way look between Sagittarius and Scorpio constellations. Like most large galaxies the center of the Milky Way has a large black hole. Though you can not see the black hole, it makes a wonderful object to ponder on a warm summer's night.

As we look toward Sagittarius constellation (sky chart) in the Sagittarius Arm we find a constellation rich in star clusters and nebulas. Take a little time to appreciate these incredible objects.

With the naked eye you can see the Lagoon Nebula (M8) . Use the stars that make the spout of the teapot and the top of the teapot. Move away from the teapot and form an equal lateral triangle to find the general area where the Lagoon Nebula lies. This is a great object to see in binoculars and small telescopes. The Lagoon Nebula covers about twice the area of a full moon. This is where young stars are being born from clouds of gas.

Just above the Lagoon Nebula lies the Trifid Nebula (M20) . This is another good object to see in binoculars and small telescopes. Look for the nebula to be separated into three sections that are divided by dark dust lanes. One of my favorite nebulas is the Swan Nebula (M17) . It looks a lot like a check mark. The brightest area of this nebula extends 15 light years across.

These are some of the special objects the summer sky has to offer. For best viewing find a dark sky site, away from the city light glow, and enjoy the view of the Milky Way.
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