Our mission is to inform, educate and entertain by providing a varied and interesting program of activities for our membership and the communities we serve. Our projects include educational programs and presentations by guest speakers and our members, public star parties, field observation of various astronomical events and trips to observatories and other space science venues. If you are as interested in Astronomy as we are, we hope you will join us at one of our star parties, meetings, or lectures. If you would like to become a member please click HERE.
Membership is open to anyone with an interest in astronomy; no equipment required.
July is an exciting month for observing. There was a solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere on July 2nd (which was streamed live on the club’s website: caaastro.com), Jupiter and Saturn are traveling across the summer sky, and the full “Buck” moon lights the night on July 16.
But it’s NOT a good month if you suffer from “ophidiophobia” - the fear of snakes. The snake bearer Ophiuchus stands high over the southern horizon this month, wrestling the snake Serpens. These less well-known constellations contain a wonderful variety of stars and deep sky objects observable with binoculars and small telescopes alike.
In Greek mythology, Ophiuchus was the son of the god Apollo and the human Coronis. He was trained in the healing arts, and later learned how to raise the dead by watching a snake he had killed be brought back to life by its companion. Hades, fearing that this would limit his access to souls, asked Zeus to kill Ophiuchus. Zeus obliged him, then placed Ophiuchus in the stars as a reminder of the inevitability of death and the limits to the healing arts.
The constellation Ophiuchus is a large outline of dim stars between Sagittarius to the east, Virgo to the west, Scorpius to the south, and Hercules to the north. The constellation Serpens appears as a line of stars “wrapped around his waist.” (See this month’s constellation map.)
Stars and Deep Sky Objects in Ophiuchus
From top to bottom (north to south):
- Alpha-Ophiuchi is also called Rasalhague which in arabic appropriately means “The Head of the Serpent Bearer.” This class A giant star is only 47 lightyears from our solar system.
- NGC 6572 is a bright green-blue 8th magnitude planetary nebula which appears east of alpha-ophiuchus. It is 2600 lightyears from earth.
- IC 4665 is a large loose open cluster of stars near 2 stars that form Ophiuchus’ right (eastern) shoulder. It is easily visible in binoculars as a loose hazy patch of light. It is 1100 light years from earth.
- Globular Clusters: Ophiuchus and Serpens contain over 20 globular clusters. M10 and M12 are easily seen with binoculars near the middle of the constellation. Also visible with binoculars is M5 in Serpens to the east (near Virgo). With larger scopes, you can find: M14, along his eastern side, M9 and M107 just below his belt, and M19 at the southern edge (just below Jupiter this month). Many others are also easy finds in telescopes - how many can you find?
- The famous Rho-Ophiuchi Cloud Complex fills a large region of space at the southwestern corner of Ophiuchus. Rho-Ophiuchi is a double star with magnitudes 5.0 and 5.9, surrounded by a bright reflection nebula IC4604. Darks clouds of molecular gas surround IC4604 and extend 100 lightyears to the east. There are regions of colorful bright and dark clouds throughout the complex, extending to star Antares and in front of globular cluster M4 to the south in Scorpius. (See photo on the back).
- Although it’s not visible in amateur scopes, Rho-Ophiuchi-102, the first brown-dwarf star ever discovered, lies deep inside IC4604.
- Planets: Bright Jupiter can be found in the southeastern corner of Ophiuchus (near his “right leg”) and serves as a convenient marker for this large but dim constellation. Dimmer Saturn can be found east of Jupiter in the constellation Sagittarius around midnight.
The June meeting will be Monday, August 5, 2019 at 7PM at the Clemson Central Library.