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Dynamic Planet:
Key to Life? p. 18
Much Ado About Dew p. 30
Great Summer Galaxies p. 56
Why To Build Your Own Scope p. 66
Find Barnards Star p. 48
Better Photos with
Modied DSLRs p. 68
THE ESSENTI AL GUI DE TO ASTRONOMY THE ESSENTI AL GUI DE TO ASTRONOMY
FREE Fold-Out Milky Way Map! p. 41
Our
Galaxy
ULTIMATE
GUIDE TO
p. 24
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July 2013 VOL. 126, NO. 1
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SKY AT A GLANCE
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Find out what the sky looks like
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On the cover:
The Milky
Ways dusty
plane stretches
across the
sky seen from
Mount Uludag
in Turkey.
PHOTO: TUN TEZEL
INSET: FILIPPO_JEAN / FOTOPEDIA
OBSERVING J ULY
38 Northern Hemispheres Sky
By Fred Schaaf

39 Julys Sky at a Glance
40 Binocular Highlight
By Gary Seronik
41 Special Foldout:
Map of the Milky Way
Photo by Serge Brunier

45 Sun, Moon & Planets
By Fred Schaaf
47 Planetary Almanac
48 Celestial Calendar
By Alan MacRobert
52 Exploring the Solar System
By John E. Bortle
56 Deep-Sky Wonders
By Sue French
60 Going Deep
By Steve Gottlieb

S&T TEST REPORT
62 S&T Test Report
By Dennis di Cicco
ALSO IN THI S I SSUE
6 Spectrum
By Robert Naeye
8 Letters
9 75, 50 & 25 Years Ago
By Roger W. Sinnott
10 News Notes
36 New Product Showcase
66 Telescope Workshop
By Gary Seronik
72 Gallery
82 Focal Point
By Howard J. Brewington
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FEATURES
18 Is Plate Tectonics Necessary
for Sentient Life?
Water, atmosphere, and pleasant
temperatures are nice, but active
geology could make or break a
planets habitability.
By Bruce Dorminey
24 Observing the Milky Way, Part I:
Sagittarius & Scorpius
Binoculars are the ideal tool for
exploring the galaxy we call home.
By Craig Crossen
30 Dew Busting
Dew can form suddenly and almost
without warning. Heres how to stop it
from ruining a nice night under
the stars. By Rod Mollise
68 Shooting with Modied
DSLR Cameras
Expanding the spectral response of your
camera opens up many new imaging
opportunities. By Hap Gri n

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4 July 2013 sky & telescope
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6 July 2013 sky & telescope
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on April 16th, the day after the Boston
Marathon bombings that left multiple people dead and more than 180 injured.
This tragedy hits home for the S&T sta because it took place right across the
Charles River from our Cambridge o ces. Fortunately, nobody on our sta
was directly aected, but our heartfelt condolences go out to the victims and
their families. I am deeply saddened that the Boston Marathon a truly inter-
national event was wracked by violence and will never again be the same.
In the wake of this tragedy, there are no words that I can summon to
smoothly transition to a dierent topic. But there are some much brighter
notes at S&T. A few days ago I returned from our highly successful Iceland
Aurora Adventure, run in partnership with Spears Travel. Our tour group
had about 90 people, mostly from the U.S. but also from other nations such
as Canada and Brazil. During the daytime we had a wonderful time explor-
ing Reykjavik, geothermal areas, caves, waterfalls, etc. (see my photo on page
23), and on the nal two nights we enjoyed interesting and rapidly chang-
ing aurora displays. Many tour-group members captured beautiful photos
showing green and reddish auroral emission. We look forward to Novembers
Kenya total solar eclipse trip and next years expedition to Chile.
Im also very pleased to announce the sophisticated new MarketPlace sec-
tion on our website (www.marketplace.skyandtelescope.com). The site enables
amateur astronomers, manufacturers, and dealers to meet in cyberspace to
buy and sell equipment across more than 60 dierent product categories.
Individuals who want to sell astronomical gear can place an ad for a used
item for just $5. The ad will remain on our site for a full year, or until the
stu is sold. If you want to purchase equipment, you can look for great deals
on a wide variety of products, including new, used, refurbished, and blem-
ished items. A comprehensive search function makes it easy to nd whatever
type of equipment interests you. You can also register to receive e-mail alerts
whenever a new product becomes available in a category of interest and that
matches your saved search criteria. Whether or not youre interested in buy-
ing or selling a piece of gear right now, check out MarketPlace!
I write these words
New Web MarketPlace
Part of the S&T Iceland tour group at Seljalandsfoss.
S
&
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Editor in Chief
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8 July 2013 sky & telescope
Letters
Write to Letters to the Editor, Sky & Telescope,
90 Sherman St., Cambridge, MA 02140-3264,
or send e-mail to letters@SkyandTelescope.com.
Please limit your comments to 250 words.
Loony for Larrieus Dam
I was excited to see the article on Larrieus
Dam in the March issue (page 54), since
I had just discovered it for myself barely
two weeks before! While on vacation in
warmer climes, I was scanning the lunar
terminator on the evening of January 17th
using my cherished LOMO Astele 150 Mak,
at about 80. I was startled by a clearly vis-
ible, straight-line feature, exactly where its
marked on the image in the article.
I asked others to conrm what I saw in
the eyepiece, and they did. I was sure it was
just a transient pattern of light and shadow
and thought that perhaps someday I might
try to nd out if anyone else had reported
it. In the bustle of returning home I forgot
all about it until S&T showed up in my
mailbox barely a week later with the whole
story. Talk about timely information!
By the way, you can also re-create the
dam using software or a good lunar smart-
phone app, although it pales to the sublime
experience of seeing the real thing.
Dave Runyan
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Exoplanets?
Theres an App for That
As part of my outreach as an astrophysicist
Ive created an iPhone app called Exoplanet,
which I think might be of interest to your
readers. The app keeps users informed of
exoplanet discoveries, with a news section
listing the latest announcements and web-
links to the discoverers research papers.
It also includes an interactive model of
the Milky Way with animations of the
planetary systems that we have found so
far. Im not running this as a business: the
basic app is free and I just want to engage
the public. It can be downloaded from the
iTunes store at http://bit.ly/OY4pBi.
Hanno Rein
Princeton, New Jersey
Enigmatic Ethane
The large deposits of ethane suggested
to be on Titan as lakes (March issue,
page 26) have intrigued me as a chemist.
Assuming that methane-to-ethane photo-
chemistry occurs at these distances from
the Sun, the primary photodissociation
mode in light with wavelengths between
129 to 147 nm (the methane absorption
band) is the elimination of molecular
hydrogen and the formation of a divalent
carbon called methylene. But ethane has
a similar strong absorption band in the
same wavelength region as methane. It
too should produce molecular hydrogen
and a divalent carbon species. Therefore,
ethane should not be stable to photochem-
istry. So why should ethane not behave
like methane?
Francis J. Waller
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Editors Note: The shortest answer is that
ethane is close to four orders of magnitude
less abundant than methane is in Titans
atmosphere. Therefore its photolysis is rather
insignicant, even though on the surface
(where no molecule-tearing ultraviolet radia-
tion reaches) it may accumulate and at
least for the moment dominate. In addi-
tion, the main ethane photolysis pathway
isnt direct; rather, its catalyzed by another
hydrocarbon. That might further hamper
ethanes breakdown.
Not So Big After All
Regarding the April issues Focal Point
Were Actually Quite Big by David Kan-
torowitz (page 86), our size is not halfway
between almost zero and 10
27
meters. In
fact, 10
26
meters is only one-tenth of the
way along that continuum, and 5 10
26
is
halfway. Im sure the article was written
tongue-in-cheek, but it trivialized the
magnitude of exponential functions.
Thomas C. Mosca III
Warsaw, Virginia
I enjoyed Kantorowitzs article and his
comparison of humans physical size
to the small and large constituents of
our realm of existence. However, when
most people refer to being miniscule
(or small) it is not from a physical size
perspective but from a cosmic viewpoint.
If our Sun should suddenly cease to exist,
our galaxy would never notice; and if
our galaxy should suddenly vanish, the
observable universe wouldnt care; and if
our observable universe should magically
disappear, the grand universe (in which
the observable universe is but a vanish-
ingly insignicant member) would not be
bothered at all; and if our grand uni-
verse went AWOL, it would not create the
faintest whisper within the multiverse.
As a retired nuclear engineer, I feel
small whenever I contemplate the unfath-
omable vastness of the cosmos. I also feel
High in the northern hemisphere of Saturns
moon Titan, this lakes islands look like
extensions of a ooded mountain ridge. The
black in this Cassini radar image is probably
liquid tens of meters deep.
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July 1938
Stellar Furnaces It is
incorrect to think of the
sun [or any other star]
as being on re, for it
is so hot, even at its
surface, that the chemical
combination which we
call re cannot take place.
. . . The only present
theory which seems to t the facts is that the
stars are giant converters changing matter
into radiant energy. . . .
Our newspapers daily attest the fact that
research scientists everywhere are devoting the
greater portion of their eorts to the problems
of the structure of the atom and the release of
sub-atomic energy.
A few months after Sky & Telescope founder
Charles A. Federer, Jr., wrote this article, Otto
Hahn, Lise Meitner, and their colleagues achieved
(and explained) nuclear ssion. Around this same
time, Hans Bethe proposed that nuclear fusion
could power the stars.
July 1963
Planet of Barnards Star
During the past 25 years,
our systematic photogra-
phy of Barnards star has
continued at an average of
nearly 100 plates a year. . .
. [Measurements] indicate
that Barnards star is
shifted by the gravitational
attraction of an unseen companion. . . .
The exceptional character of this binary
system becomes clear when we consider . .
. that the mass of the unseen companion is
only about 0.0015 sun a mere 1 times as
massive as Jupiter! Such an object must be
regarded as a planet rather than a star.
Astrometric authority Peter van de Kamp
described his nd with the Sproul Observatory
24-inch refractor in much the way exoplanet hunt-
ers do today. But his tiny, 24-year oscillation was
not conrmed at other observatories and is now
blamed partly on a tiny change in the telescopes
imaging properties after the lens cell was replaced
in 1949. More on Barnards Star on page 48.
July 1988
Light Probes On April
30, 1006, the brightest
supernova in recorded
history burst into view
in the southern constel-
lation of Lupus. The
brilliant new star prob-
ably reached apparent
magnitude 8 or 9, far
outshining Venus and casting shadows. . . .
No stellar remnant has been detected, but,
by chance, a rare and unusual star lies almost
directly behind the center of the [expand-
ing debris] remnant. This lucky break gives
astronomers a chance to use this starlight to
probe inside the explosion cloud. . . .
The recent results [with the International
Ultraviolet Explorer satellite] are exciting
because the ejectas observed velocities and
composition are just those predicted by models
of a Type Ia supernova. . . . However, there is
one problem with this picture where is the
0.35 solar mass of iron such a supernova sup-
posedly produces? X-ray observations show no
evidence of it, and only about 0.015 solar mass
shows up in the IUE spectra.
Observed a few years ago with the Hubble
Space Telescope, additional background stars
behind the remnant revealed more iron, but still
not enough to match Type Ia models.
equally as small whenever I contemplate
the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics,
which govern the realm of the subatomic
world and which are in total conict with
the common sense that governs the world
I live in.
Frank Ridolfo
Bloomeld, Connecticut
Liquid Mirrors Long History
As hinted in Aprils article on liquid-mirror
telescopy (page 26), rotating mercury mir-
75, 50 & 25 Years Ago Roger W. Sinnott
rors arent new. A 1970 article in Amateur
Telescope Making recounts the experiments
of Robert Wood (Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity) around 1909, which are also discussed
in the August 1991 Journal of the Royal
Astronomical Society of Canada. That article
takes a detailed look at liquid mirrors in
the last 150 years and highlights Ermanno
Borras work (mentioned in the April S&T).
Its available at http://bit.ly/10Qc9aC.
Peter L. Albrecht
Costa Mesa, California
CGE Pro 1400 HD
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10 July 2013 sky & telescope
News Notes
EXOPLANETS I Almost Earth-like Worlds
This illustration
depicts Kepler-62f,
a super-Earth-
size planet in its
stars habitable
zone. The bright
white star to
the planets lower
right represents
another poten-
tially habitable
planet, Kepler-62e.
Astronomers dont
know the mass of
either world.
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NASAs Kepler mission has discovered
a ve-planet system that includes a hot
Mars and four super-Earths, two of which
might host liquid water. These arent quite
the Earth-like exoplanets Kepler has been
looking for, but theyre close.
The Kepler-62 system lies 1,200 light-
years away around an orange, hydrogen-
fusing K2 star about two-thirds the size of
our Sun. The hot Mars whips around the
star every 12 days; two hot super-Earths
complete orbits every 6 days and 18 days.
The nal two worlds, Kepler-62e and
Kepler-62f, are 60% and 40% bigger than
Earth, respectively, and their orbits last
122 days and 267 days, William Borucki
(NASA/Ames Research Center) and his
team reported online April 18th in Science.
Yet despite the media fanfare, astrono-
mers proceed with caution. Id be hesi-
tant to call any of these worlds potentially
Earth-like, says Caleb Scharf (Colum-
bia University), an exoplanet expert not
involved in the study. But their discovery
is denitely leading us closer and closer to
places that might represent alien, but none-
theless similar, environments to our own.
The Holy Grail of exoplanet searches
is nding an Earth-size planet in a stars
habitable zone, but thats more easily
dened in words the region around a
star where a rocky planet with an atmo-
sphere could host liquid water on its sur-
face than in practice. Boruckis team
used two approaches to dene Kepler-62s
habitable zone. The rst assumes the plan-
ets are rocky, with atmospheres thick with
water vapor and carbon dioxide. Under
these strict assumptions, Kepler-62f would
receive enough stellar ux to keep liquid
water on its surface, with the help of
greenhouse eects. Kepler-62e would be
too hot.
A more liberal approach denes the
habitable zone by referring to the orbits
and atmospheres Venus and Mars had
billions of years ago, when they were still
able to host liquid water. This method
allows Kepler-62e to sneak in.
Even if we take the latter tack, are the
planets actually habitable? Their masses
are too low to nail down via radial veloc-
ity or variations in the transit timings,
so with just their sizes astronomers can
only speculate about what theyre made of.
Still, by not nding these other signals,
the team can limit Kepler-62e to 36 Earth
masses and Kepler-62f to 35 Earth masses.
If the planets are both rocky and many
times Earths mass, they might be very
geologically active. Then again, since
Kepler-62 is 7 billion years old, the planets
could have simmered down by now.
On the other hand, an Earth-mass
water world could have an ocean, but deep
down it would turn into pressurized ice.
MONICA YOUNG
The inner solar systems planets are compared
with those of the Kepler-62 system, which lies
about 1,200 light-years away in Lyra.
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Kepler-62 System
Habitable Zone
(more inclusive model)
62f 62e 62d 62c 62b
Mercury Venus Earth Mars
Solar System
Planets and orbits to scale
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News Notes

On April 10th the space
agencys managers unveiled a
proposal to capture a small, as-yet-unidenti-
ed asteroid, drag it back to Earths vicinity,
and send astronauts to work on it all within
the next decade.
Before that announcement, new plans for
near-Earth object (NEO) study and mining
had come mostly from the private sector (May
issue, page 16). The mindset has been that
private investors can ante up far more dollars
Our neighborhood just got a little more
crowded. Two newly discovered brown
dwarfs lie about 7 light-years away, making
them the closest brown dwarfs known and
maybe the third-closest star system known.
The binary, WISE J104915.57531906,
appears in data from NASAs now-
hibernating Wide-eld Infrared Survey
Explorer (WISE). It joins Alpha Centauri
(4.4 light-years away), Barnards Star (6.0
light-years), and Wolf 359 (7.8 light-years)
as the nearest star systems to Earth and is
the closest system discovered since 1916.
Kevin Luhman (Penn State University)
announced the discovery in the April 10th
Astrophysical Journal.
Previous studies have found brown
dwarfs by their infrared colors, but Luh-
man searched for infrared sources with
high proper motion. He caught a dim but
rapidly moving object in the WISE surveys
and calculated where he might nd it in
older infrared surveys taken between 1978
The third closest star system to Earth, WISE
J1049 is the bright orb at the center of the larger
image, taken by WISE. A sharper image from the
Gemini South telescope (inset) reveals that the
object is actually a binary.
for NEO exploration than NASA can muster.
But the Presidents proposed 2014 budget
includes an eye-popping plan to kick asteroid
utilization into high gear. The $105 million in
start-up funding for this new initiative is one of
the few bright spots in a $17.7-billion proposal
that slashes overall spending for solar-system
science by nearly 20%.
The retrieval plan has three phases:
Stepped-up searches for small bodies,
with an eye toward nding one with a mass
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of roughly 500 tons (up to 35 feet, or 10
meters, across) in an Earth-like orbit. The
budget includes a doubling of the funds to
$40.5 million currently set aside for NEO
searches and follow-up observations.
An ion-propelled spacecraft dispatched to
bag the object and drag it back to a gravita-
tionally stable location near Earth.
Astronauts using the Orion capsule and SLS
launch system (now under development),
will rendezvous with the asteroid and gather
samples. First footfall would be as early as
2021, before President Obamas astronauts-
to-asteroid deadline of 2025.
In some ways, the proposal oers some-
thing for everyone, says Senator Bill Nelson
(D-Florida). The plan combines the science
of mining an asteroid, along with developing
ways to deect one, along with providing a
place to develop ways we can go to Mars.
The plan is still sketchy, but it draws heavily
on concepts detailed last year by a study for
Caltechs Keck Institute for Space Studies. A
more thorough review of the mission concept
is still several months away.
J. KELLY BEATTY
STARS I Closest Brown Dwarf System Discovered
and 1999. The combined detections give a
parallax of 0.5 arcsecond, or a distance of
6.50.5 light-years, putting the system just
past Barnards Star (page 48).
Independent work by Alexei Kniazev
(South African Astronomical Observatory)
and his colleagues conrms the distance
is from 6 to 9 light-years, based on the
objects brightnesses.
Both studies peg the brown dwarfs near
the transition between the two lowest stellar
classes, L and T. Separated by three times
the Earth-Sun distance, one brown dwarf is
about 1.5 times brighter than the other.
This pair of brown dwarfs is so
bright because of its close proximity to us
that, when I rst started examining it, I
thought that it was surely too bright to be
a brown dwarf, Luhman says. The pair
has gone undetected until now because
previous surveys tend to avoid the Milky
Ways star-dense plane.
SHARAZADE BALOUCHI
To get astronomy news as
it breaks, visit skypub.com/
newsblog.
12 July 2013 sky & telescope
NASA managers have announced plans
(illustrated here) to corral a near-Earth
asteroid and bring it back to Earths vicinity.
MISSIONS I NASA Plans Asteroid Snag
Astronomers have discovered a new,
milder class of supernova in which the star
might survive the explosion. Ryan Foley
(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astro-
physics) and his team collected observa-
tions old and new of 25 supernovae that
look almost but not quite like their
Type Ia brethren, explosions in which a
white dwarf grabs too much material from
a companion star and explodes.
The 25 supernovae share a dozen or
so properties that distinguish them from
normal Type Ia events, including lower
peak brightnesses and lower ejecta veloci-
ties. Foley and his colleagues have dubbed
these supernovae Type Iax.
These supernovae also result from
thermonuclear fusion that starts deep
within a white dwarf. But the reaction fails
to demolish the entire star; instead, only a
half Suns worth of material (on average)
is ejected, including ash from the thermo-
SUPERNOVAE I New Type of Exploding Dwarf . . .
At more than 10 billion years old, a Type
Ia supernova dubbed Wilson is the
oldest and most distant discovered of its
kind. Wilson lies at a redshift of 1.9 and
is now the farthest marker on the super-
nova-based cosmic yardstick with which
astronomers measure both distances in the
universe and the cosmic expansion rate.
O cially named SN UDS10Wil, the
new record-breaker comes from the
CANDELS+CLASH Supernova Project, a
near-infrared observing campaign survey-
ing the early universe with the Hubble
Space Telescope. The discovery team is
naming the supernovae they nd after
U.S. presidents; this one is named for
Woodrow Wilson.
Weve never seen an object like this
so early in the universe, says coauthor
David Jones (Johns Hopkins University),
whose study appeared in the May 10th
Astrophysical Journal. The exciting part is
we havent found more of them.
Jones and his colleagues think that
the dearth of supernovae like Wilson in
the early universe is an important clue to
the origin of these massive explosions.
Type Ia supernovae are the demolitions of
overweight white dwarfs, but astronomers
disagree whether white dwarfs fatten up by
sucking matter o a swollen, aging com-
panion star or by merging with a second
white dwarf. Observational evidence backs
up both scenarios.
The star-sucking model produces
supernovae promptly and consistently.
Thus, if most Type Ias happen this way,
the universes supernova production line
comes online around the same time that
the early universe is making vast amounts
of stars meaning there ought to be
many supernovae at Wilson-esque ages.
But if colliding white dwarfs are the cul-
prits, the universes supernova production
line turns on abruptly, when the tightest-
orbiting binary systems begin colliding.
The abruptness would mean that, as
astronomers look farther into the early uni-
verse, the number of supernovae should
drop precipitously, with vast numbers of
stars sitting around waiting for the assem-
bly line to start up. This is what Wilsons
forlorn presence seems to suggest.
MARK ZASTROW
. . . and the Oldest, Loneliest Supernova
nuclear burning. Often, some part of the
white dwarf may survive the deagration.
The proposed explanation . . . ts many
of the observed properties, says Craig
Wheeler (University of Texas at Austin),
who was not involved in the study. Model-
ing of these events is nevertheless a new
art and probably deserves maturing before
rm conclusions are reached, he cautions.
The team estimates in an upcoming
Astrophysical Journal that the new class
is about one-third as common as regular
Type Ia supernovae. But are these explo-
sions worthy of the supernova title if they
fail to destroy the star? My take, Foley
says, is that (1) some of these objects may
in fact completely disrupt their star, and
(2) in every way except for the possibility
of the remaining star, SNe Iax are more
like supernovae than novae. Maybe we
need a new word. Pretty good novae?
MONICA YOUNG
After a prolonged search, a group of
Russian space enthusiasts thinks it has
nally spotted the remains of the Soviet
Mars 3 lander. Mars 3 fell silent seconds
after landing in 1971, and its exact location
in the broad crater Ptolemaeus at 45 S,
158 W was uncertain. Led by Vitaliy Egorov,
the group combed through images taken
in 2007 by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiters HiRISE camera and found objects
on the surface that appear to be the lander
and its heat shield, retrorocket, and para-
chute. A follow-up image taken on March
10th supports the interpretation.
J. KELLY BEATTY
Astronomers have detected what
might be the farthest star spectroscopi-
cally observed. Using optical and ultraviolet
observations, Youichi Ohyama (Academia
Sinica, Taiwan) and Ananda Hota (UM-DAE
Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences,
India) have pinpointed a suspicious object
55 million light-years away. Named SDSS
J122952.66+112227.8, the object is a bright
bluish blob in the clumpy gas tail of the
galaxy IC 3418. Its spectral ngerprints
match those of an evolved O-type star, the
duo reported in the April 20th Astrophysi-
cal Journal. If its a star, J1229 could help
researchers understand star formation
in exotic locales, far from the calm, cold
molecular clouds nestled inside galaxies.
CAMILLE M. CARLISLE
Since its discovery in 2004, asteroid
99942 Apophis has worried celestial
dynamicists because of its potential for
an Earth-devastating wallop. Recent radar
observations made an impact in 2036
highly unlikely (April issue, page 10). Yet the
asteroids orbit might have been tweaked
by the Yarkovsky eect, the gentle but per-
sistent nudging that occurs when absorbed
sunlight is reradiated by a rotating object.
Further analysis allays that concern: Apophis
is both elongated and tumbling, character-
istics that minimize the eect. Theres now
zero chance of a 2036 impact and a mere
0.0002% chance of impact in 2068.
J. KELLY BEATTY
IN BRIEF
News Notes
14 July 2013 sky & telescope
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 15
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News Notes
DARK MATTER I Homing in on Mystery Particles?
In April an international team working
deep in a Minnesota mine announced
the detection of what might be three dark
matter particles scattering o atoms in
silicon wafers. These three events do not
constitute a discovery: with a statistical
signicance of three sigma (science-speak
for pretty good but no cigar), the detec-
tions could be background noise.
Still, the Cryogenic Dark Matter
Search (CDMS) collaborations result
intrigues researchers. This result looks
about as solid as three events could
but then again its only three events,
says Dan Hooper (Fermilab), who was
not involved with the new study. Its an
interesting hint, made even more interest-
ing because of the similar signals seen in
other experiments.
Those similar signals and the new
CDMS result both imply a particle mass
of about 10 gigaelectron volts. (If you
could convert a protons entire mass into
energy, it would take about 10 protons to
make a GeV.) That would put the particle
on the lightweight end of whats expected
for weakly interacting massive particles
(WIMPs), the current favorite for the
universes primary-yet-invisible matter
constituent (January issue, page 26).
Notably, this mass is at most one-hun-
dredth of whats implied by another result
announced two weeks earlier, says Hooper.
In that study, physicists using the Alpha
Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aboard the
International Space Station measured an
excess in positrons that, they suggested,
might be a byproduct of dark matter par-
ticles colliding and annihilating.
The CDMS experiment is lodged about
a half mile underground in the Soudan
Underground Laboratory. Its second-
generation run, CDMS II, worked from
2003 to 2008 and used cryogenically
cooled silicon and germanium wafers,
stacked into little towers, to look for pass-
ing dark matter particles. If dark matter
particles are whizzing by, every once in a
while one should collide with an atom in
the detectors, making the nucleus recoil
and give o heat. Because silicon atoms
are less massive than germaniums, they
react more when lower-mass particles hit
them than germanium atoms do. Eight of
the experiments 11 silicon detectors were
analyzed by Rob Agnese (University of
Florida) and his colleagues. Their study
will appear in Physical Review Letters.
The mass pinpointed by CDMS II,
8.6 GeV, also agrees with one suggested
by a faint gamma-ray haze teased out by
Hooper and his colleagues from observa-
tions by NASAs Fermi Gamma-ray Space
Telescope. Hooper thinks that haze might
be from dark matter annihilation. Theres
remarkable agreement between the Fermi
residue and whats expected for dark
matter, but the signal could also be from
millisecond pulsars, says Kevork Abazajian
(University of California, Irvine).
So what will it take to discover dark
matter? Gamma-ray detections from
dwarf galaxies (which have a lot of dark
matter and probably not a lot of millisec-
ond pulsars) would help. So might future
results from CDMSs next iteration or
other ground-based experiments, such as
LUX in South Dakota.
CAMILLE M. CARLISLE F
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CDMS scientists remove one tower of detec-
tors used in the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search
experiment. Data from a 2003-2008 CDMS
run, called CDMS II, contain three signals that
might be from dark matter particles hitting
atoms in the experiments detectors.
Astronomers are closer to understand-
ing how uy, multi-armed spiral galaxies
grow their whirls. Elena DOnghia (Uni-
versity of Wisconsin, Madison) and her
colleagues followed disks of 100 million
star particles in computer simulations and
then added in some molecular clouds.
The clouds presence triggered clumping
into ragged arms and, contrary to previous
thinking, these arms self-perpetuated by
triggering more arms, even after the clouds
were gone, the team reported in the March
20th Astrophysical Journal. The result could
explain the less prominent arms of so-
called occulent spirals.
CAMILLE M. CARLISLE
Millimeter-wavelength observations of
the Milky Ways chaotic center show hints
of stars forming just 2 light-years from
our galaxys supermassive black hole.
The beast wreaks gravitational havoc on
its surroundings, and astronomers have
wondered if nearby young stars formed in
situ or migrated in. Reporting in the April
20th Astrophysical Journal, Farhad Yusef-
Zadeh (Northwestern University) and
his colleagues found 11 clumps of silicon
oxide, which typically appears in the warm,
dense environments around forming stars.
But collisions between fast-moving clouds
could also make the clumps glow, with
no stars needed. If protostars hide inside,
normal star formation might be ongoing
near the black hole.
MONICA YOUNG
Theres a new class of gamma-ray bursts.
Unlike long GRBs, which last several
seconds to a few minutes, three events
detected by NASAs Swift satellite lasted 30
minutes to several hours. The durations,
coupled with unique aspects of the bursts
light curves, prompted Andrew Levan (Uni-
versity of Warwick, UK) and his team to call
them ultra-long GRBs. Like long GRBs,
ultra-longs might be jets created when
massive stars die and birth a black hole,
but ultra-longs would come from stars with
extremely wide girths. The dying gasp of a
star eaten by a black hole (June issue, page
16) could also be to blame.
MONICA YOUNG
16 July 2013 sky & telescope
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 17
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Planetary Shake, Rattle, n Roll
The very geodynamics that move
mountains, spawn tsunamis, and
reduce cities to mere rubble might
ultimately hold the key to the evolu-
tion of intelligent life in the universe.
For all the furor over whether we are
the only sentient beings in the galaxy,
the geophysical force known as plate
tectonics is arguably the most under-
appreciated factor in the astrobiological equation.
Unless intelligent life can exist as amorphous blobs
lurking in interstellar clouds, it needs terra rma. But it
also needs more than that and that extra something
comes in part from plate tectonics. So if we understand
why Earth is the only planet in our own solar system with
global plate tectonics, we can better understand what
types of planets might ultimately harbor advanced life.
But grasping the evolution of life as we know it
requires a deep understanding of plate tectonics role in
shaping Earths geography, its climate, and the dynamic
geological forces that ultimately led to our planets
extraordinary biological diversity, an understanding scien-
tists are still amassing.
Lessons from Venus and Mars
The interiors of newborn planets are brimming with
radioactive nuclides such as uranium, thorium, and
Is Plate Tectonics
Bruce Dorminey
potassium. Planets slowly radiate the heat from the decay
of these nuclides and from the worlds initial formation
into space, mostly through volcanism.
On Earth, this mechanism manifests itself in the form
of a global system of fractured, rigid plates (see facing
page). The plates literally slide horizontally over the upper
mantle. These plates, composed of a combination of the
upper mantle and surface crust, inevitably collide with
and subduct (slide and sink) under other plates. These
slow but inexorable processes create mountain ranges
such as the Andes and deep-ocean ridges and trenches,
such as the Mariana Trench.
Destructive earthquakes occur frequently at plate
boundaries, but the force of tectonic subduction also plays
a creative role by recycling carbon dioxide (CO
2
). Subduc-
tion depletes this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere
and acts as a built-in thermostat, enabling Earth to
maintain habitable temperatures over billions of years. In
other words, our current habitable atmosphere ultimately
depends upon plate tectonics.
But planets need more than heat to drive plate tecton-
ics. Without Earths plethora of water to promote subduc-
tion, plate tectonics wouldnt have gotten very far. Water
alters the minerals in rocks into weaker compounds
changing basalt into soft, mushy talc, for example
which enables the tectonic plates to slide along smoothly
next to one another. Without that kind of water-inducing
Rough locations for Earths continents over time
250 million years ago 200 million years ago 150 million years ago
(based on one model) supercontinent breaks up North America breaks away
Sentient Life?
18 July 2013 sky & telescope
Necessary for
Water, atmosphere, and pleasant temperatures are nice,
but active geology could make or break a planets habitability.
100 million years ago 50 million years ago Earth today
Africa grabs Sinai India still oats free
Earths crust is split into nine giant plates and a bunch of smaller ones, some of which are labeled above. These plates move at dierent speeds, ranging
from about 2 to 15 centimeters per year. Some plates are crashing together to form mountain ranges, others are spreading apart, and some are sliding
past each other. Generally, the movement is away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which makes sense, given the plates trajectory over time (below).
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SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 19
A R A B I A N
P L AT E
P A C I F I C P L AT E
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20 July 2013 sky & telescope
Planetary Shake, Rattle, n Roll
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alteration, the plates could eventually lock up like an
engine without lubricant.
If weve learned anything from our planet, says geo-
dynamicist Craig ONeill (Macquarie University, Australia),
its that both internal heat and water should be essential
ingredients on other planets with plate tectonics as well.
Although Mercury, Venus, the Moon, and Mars have
experienced volcanism, none held onto their original
inventory of liquid water. Venuss extraordinarily dry,
hellish fate was probably sealed by its ponderous rotation
and proximity to the Sun. Even if Venus has a convecting
liquid core, the planets 243-day spin rate is simply too
slow to generate a magnetic dynamo. Without an active
magnetic dynamo to protect Venus from the ravages of
the solar wind, it lost most of its water vapor within a few
hundred million years of its formation. And without liquid
water to lubricate plate tectonics, Venus has lost most of
its internal heat through episodic overturning of its crust.
Episodic overturning is like subduction on steroids,
says ONeill. Its like a massive subduction event that
happens all at once and is all over and done within a few
tens of millions of years. The lesson from Venus is that
many terrestrial planets and moons are likely to be in a
temporary stagnant lid phase, akin to a steaming, some-
times roiling pot of soup locked under an immobile lid.
Mars, in contrast, is so small and cold that its tectonics
qualies as a permanent stagnant lid. Over the last few
billion years most of its heat has just slowly conducted
through its upper mantle and crust, called the lithosphere.
Without plate tectonics, its unlikely that Earth would
have its current continent-ocean crustal dichotomy. This
dichotomy arose because ocean crust (made mostly of vol-
canic basalt) is denser yet thinner than continental crust
(made primarily of granite). But ultimately, this dichot-
omy also wouldnt exist without water: to create future
subduction zones, convective stresses have to be able to
rupture the lithosphere. Earth probably would not have
subduction zones if its crust had not been hydrated in sea-
water (and therefore weakened) over millions of years.
Without water, it would also be di cult to generate
granite, the continental building block. Water lowers
basalts melting point, and as a result, granites key min-
eral components can dierentiate. Earth is currently mak-
ing continents as fast as its losing them, says geophysicist
Norman Sleep (Stanford University). But when plate tec-
tonics begins to slow, so will the formation of continents.
Getting Plate Tectonics Going
Most geologists credit this unique crustal dichotomy of
oceans and continents with making Earth so wonderfully
diverse and habitable. But theres still much controversy
over exactly when and how the geologic processes that
resulted in this crucial dichotomy actually began. Did plate
tectonics start soon after Earths formation, or much later?
Geologist Robert Stern (University of Texas at Dallas)
favors a very late start for plate tectonics, perhaps only 1 bil-
lion years ago. Relying on geologic evidence from ancient,
exposed layers of rock, he says most rock associations for
modern-style plate tectonics do not appear until the Neo-
proterozoic Era, roughly 1 billion to 540 million years ago.
In contrast, geologists such as Mark Harrison (Univer-
sity of California, Los Angeles) adhere to the view that plate
tectonics started perhaps as early as 100 million years after
Earths formation. Harrison bases his evidence on zirco-
nium silicate minerals (zircons) from the Jack Hills of West-
ern Australia. Harrison says that these zircons existence
shows that Earth had continents and lots of liquid surface
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Key players in Earths carbon cycle, with exchanges per year and
volumes in billions of tons. Sedimentary deposits (such as lime-
stone) and the deep ocean hold most of the carbon.
Earth recycles its crust via plate tectonics. Material for new crust
wells up between two spreading plates, while old sediment melts
when one plate dives under another in subduction zones.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 21
water within the rst 500 million years of its formation.
Theres also disagreement about just how much of a
factor a planets mass plays in the onset of plate tectonics.
With the exception of planetary bodies such as Jupiters
moon Io (which are tidally heated), planets need to be
massive enough to sustain the high internal temperatures
that drive mantle convection and plate tectonics. Geolo-
gists are still vigorously debating what that minimum
mass is. A rough upper limit is 10 Earth masses, because
above that planets are prone to turn into Uranus-size
giants. But ultimately, sustained plate tectonics may
depend on contingencies, such as a moon-forming impact
or maybe even microbial life that maintains surface water.
ONeill actually doesnt expect there to be a required
minimum mass for the onset of plate tectonics. Computer
simulations by his team suggest that an Earth-like mass
doesnt always translate into tectonic activity. Its the
interaction between driving and resisting strength in the
lithosphere thats critical, he says. The amount of radio-
active isotopes in planetary interiors is also key, because
these are the nuclear powerhouses for mantle convection.
Regardless of a planets mass, a weak lid coupled with
strong buoyant and thermal forces can mobilize the lid
and lead to something like plate tectonics.
Until we gure out the cause and onset of global plate
tectonics, it will be di cult to know whether its rare or
commonplace on rocky planets. Still, most geologists are
sanguine about prospects for exoplanet tectonics, based
on their optimism in what Stern terms theoretical uni-
formitarianism, which in this case reects the assertion
of the universality of plate tectonics across the galaxy.
But Stern cautions that a rocky Earth-like exoplanet wont
necessarily have active geology.
If you ask us whether a planet around Alpha Centauri
has plate tectonics, well give an opinion, he says. But
it wont be an informed opinion, because we dont really
understand plate tectonics on our own world.
Planetary Thermostat
Based on our experience on Earth, planetary scientist
James Kasting (Penn State University) says plate tectonics
helps maintain a stable planetary thermostat by removing
carbon dioxide. Wherever fresh crust is created, wind and
water erode it. Dissolved calcium ions from the rocks then
suck CO
2
into the sedimentary cycle by reacting with CO
2

in the air to form limestones.
Signicant amounts of CO
2
also turn into compounds
such as carbonate, which are then deposited into rocks
and locked up underground. Another large portion of CO
2

is dissolved in the ocean, which makes its way down into
subduction zones and then into the mantle. Without such
processes, carbon dioxide would simply build up to the
point where Earth would experience a runaway green-
house eect similar to Venus.
Therefore, says ONeill, plate tectonics plays a crucial
role in whether a planet could spawn complex life. From
Radar mapping by ground- and space-based instruments reveals
the two hemispheres of Venuss surface, centered at longitude 0
(left) and 180 (right). The maps are color-coded for elevation. No
evidence has ever been detected for growing mountain ranges or
spreading zones associated with plate tectonics.
NASA / JPL / USGS
3 1 1 3 5 7 9 11
Elevation (kilometers)
22 July 2013 sky & telescope
an astronomical point of view, he says, the habitable
zone is a very nebulous concept. A planets distance from
its star is important, but the primary concept in creating a
habitable planet is atmospheric composition, where stellar
energy and atmospheric composition provide surface tem-
peratures and pressures that allow for liquid water.
Having a su ciently massive super-Earth with liquid
water in a stars habitable zone does not mean that plate
tectonics is a given. Stern gives the chances of a rocky
exoplanet having plate tectonics as on the order of 20%.
His estimate stems from the simple fact that only one of
the inner solar systems ve silicate planets (if we include
the Moon) currently has plate tectonics.
In many cases, Earth analogs could still be what
ONeill terms frozen dead bowls or searing hellholes,
depending on variables involving interior heat production
and the strength of the lithosphere. The more heat you
have, the faster tectonics goes, says ONeill. But if the
lithospheric plates are too strong relative to the driving
internal mantle, the plates wont move.
Fostering Evolution
In addition to controlling temperatures, plate tectonics
has also played a pivotal role in biological evolution. Plate
tectonics creates opportunities for dierent populations of
a species to become geographically isolated, says paleo-
biologist Bruce Lieberman (University of Kansas). With-
out geographic isolation, speciation wont happen. Without
speciation, evolution grinds to a halt. You need to have a
series of speciation events for intelligence to evolve.
For example, the formation of the East African Rift
System may have spurred speciation 20 million years ago.
East Africa changed from a relatively at rainforest to a
plateau-laden, mountainous terrain of rift valleys, basin
lakes, and grasslands. Early human ancestors would have
had to forage farther for food, forcing their brains to adapt
to new environmental stresses.
And as geologist Stephen Mojzsis (University of
Colorado, Boulder) points out, Earths plethora of dry land
gives intelligent life a leg up. Although the galaxy might
be awash with Earth-mass water worlds dotted with little
Hawaiis where creatures sun themselves, complex life on
these planets will arguably never evolve into technological
civilizations. Without dry land, he says, evolving intel-
ligence wont have re. Without re you cant work ores
and metals to make electronics to study the stars.
Earth is the only known planet with this extant mix of
oceans and continents. Although life may have diversi-
ed in island niches, its possible that primate-to-hominid
evolution might not have taken the same turn without
continents and their transformations.
Astrobiologists wont know for sure whether Earths
biosphere is a relative anomaly until life-nder space tele-
scopes survey exoplanet atmospheres and compositions.
Spectroscopy from such missions may detect atmospheric
Laser altimetry mapped Marss topography at high resolution but
yielded no evidence of plate tectonics. Valles Marineris (big cre-
vasse in the left image) is probably a giant stress fracture formed
as the planet cooled and the Tharsis region to the west rose.
NASA / JPL / MARS ORBITER LASER ALTIMETER
8 4 0 4 8 12
Elevation (kilometers)
Planetary Shake, Rattle, n Roll
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 23
chemistries that are byproducts of microbial life in
extrasolar small, warm ponds. But nding a world with
full-blown plate tectonics capable of supporting complex
life will require more than mere spectroscopy.
Research by Darren Williams (Penn State Erie, The
Behrend College) and Eric Gaidos (University of Hawaii)
highlights the promise of remotely sensing crustal dichoto-
mies indicative of plate tectonics. Gaidos says that by track-
ing changes in an exoplanets reected light, it might be
possible during a single planetary rotation to see successive
surfaces of land and ocean. A dark hemisphere might be
the ocean, and a bright hemisphere, the land. By observing
many rotations, he says, one could eliminate the possibility
that clouds or weather are causing the eect.
At the very least, an 8- to 10-meter space telescope
should be able to discriminate between an ocean planet
with few clouds and a planet with either no oceans or
widespread clouds. Intermediate cases would be much
harder to characterize, says Gaidos.
A Grim Future
Meanwhile, what we learn from any exo-Earth analog will
provide our own fragile species with a mirror of both our
geotectonic past and future.
Within half a billion years or so, Earths cooling inte-
rior will cause plate motions to become sluggish. Tecton-
ics will begin grinding to a halt, and Earth will head into
its own stagnant-lid phase.
We will have no more active mountain building, a
much lower rate of active volcanoes, and no additional
crustal generation, says ONeill. Anything above sea
level will probably erode down to sea level. Eventually, the
whole surface of Earth will just seize up.
Sleep says harbingers of such sluggishness are already
showing up in the Australian-Antarctic discordance, the
sea oor between these two continents where a lot of
subduction has occurred over the last several hundred mil-
lion years. The area is now sucking up colder mantle that
wont readily melt to form granite. That means more water
is heading into the mantle than is coming out through
volcanism. In 700 million years, the oceans could simply
disappear down a plethora of geotectonic rabbit warrens.
Once you lose the water, you lose the plates, says
ONeill. Without lubrication, the plates will lock up, and
plate motions will cease. The end result could be a Frank
Herbert-type Dune world with limited groundwater
and some surface water at the poles, but the rest of the
planet a giant Sahara.
Given Earths abundant ocean water, Sleep bets we are
more likely to drown than die of thirst. He suspects that
once plate tectonics ends, the worlds oceans will bevel our
stagnant continental crust into a state of terminal erosion,
turning our home planet into a latter-day water world.
By that point, it may not matter anyway. In 500 million
years, the brightening Sun is expected to disrupt photo-
synthesis and usher in an era of atmospheric loss via
photodissociation. Even if our distant progeny nd a way
to somehow shield Earth from this predicted increase
in solar luminosity, they will still have to contend with a
planet whose innards have cooled beyond the bounds nec-
essary to maintain plate tectonics. By then, it might just
be easier to pack up, pass Pluto, and never look back.
Science journalist Bruce Dorminey is author of Distant Wan-
derers: The Search for Planets beyond the Solar System,
and is a technology columnist for Forbes.com.
The North American Plate (left) and the Eurasian Plate (right)
are splitting apart at this rift valley in ingvellir National Park
in western Iceland. The valley is essentially a short segment of
the Mid-Atlantic Ridge sticking up above the oceans surface.
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24 July 2013 sky & telescope
Galactic Depth Perspective
Binoculars are the ideal tool for
exploring the galaxy we call home.
Craig Crossen
The largest single object in the sky is the Milky Way, which makes a full 360
circuit around the heavens. But it isnt a featureless, hazy band; it has bays, rifts, and
star clouds that can be seen easily by the unaided eye and are often quite spectacular in
binoculars as long as you view them from a dark location on a clear, moonless night.
These features, as well as the distribution of the brightest open clusters and nebulae
along the Milky Way, reect our galaxys spiral structure in the neighborhood of the Sun.
We see the Milky Way in two dimensions, as though it were painted on the celestial
sphere. But this view is misleading; objects at very dierent distances often appear
side by side or even superposed. Thats especially true in the constellations Sagittarius,
Scorpius, and Ophiuchus, where several spiral arms lie between us and the center of
the galaxy. This article is meant to give you a sense of depth perspective when you
view this area with binoculars or your unaided eyes. It will be followed by two more
articles describing the remainder of the Milky Way band and how its appearance
reects our galaxys structure.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 25
OBSERVING THE MILKY WAY, PART I:
Photo by Babak Tafreshi
26 July 2013 sky & telescope
Galactic Depth Perspective
Vital Statistics
Professional astronomers have nearly as much trouble as
amateurs in discerning our galaxys structure; its di -
cult to understand a forest when youre surrounded by its
trees. The broad outlines have been known or suspected
for many decades, but the details are still controversial.
The Milky Way Galaxy seems to be an SBc spiral with
fairly loosely wound, luminous spiral arms and a relatively
small central bulge. The galaxys disk is probably not quite
100,000 light-years in diameter, and the Sun is between
25,000 and 29,000 light-years from the center. The spiral
arms are less than 1,500 light-years thick when viewed edge
on, but theyre embedded in a thick disk of more smoothly
distributed stars some 3,000 to 4,000 light-years thick. The
galaxys central bulge is something of a attened spheroid,
with a polar diameter of roughly 8,000 light-years and an
equatorial diameter around 10,000 light-years. In both the
central bulge and the disk, star densities taper o gradually,
so these dimensions cannot be specied with precision.
The bulge is embedded in a weak central bar whose
long axis is oriented between 10 and 40 from our line
of sight making it di cult to detect. Some researchers
think there are two superposed bars.
Our Milky Way Galaxy is well above average in terms
of size, luminosity, and mass. For instance, our Local Gal-
axy Group contains only one other galaxy of similar size
(Messier 31), one thats somewhat smaller (Messier 33),
and several dozen that are much smaller.
The Milky Way contains well over 100 billion stars and
probably well under a trillion most of them consider-
ably less massive and much less luminous than our Sun.
Its total luminosity is at least 15 billion Suns, correspond-
ing to an integrated absolute magnitude of 20.5.
Although stars account for almost all of our galaxys
light, they make up only a fraction of its mass. A roughly
comparable mass exists in the form of interstellar gas
(mostly hydrogen and helium) and dust (microscopic
particles). Dust accounts for less than 1% of the mass, but
it has a disproportionate eect on our galaxys appear-
ance and evolution because it blocks visible light, whereas
hydrogen and helium are transparent at most wavelengths.
The Galactic Center
Astronomers have long suspected that the center of our
galaxy lies near the junction of the constellations Sagit-
tarius, Scorpius, and Ophiuchus. Thats both because this
is the brightest and broadest part of the Milky Way band
and because of the distribution of globular clusters. Of
the 29 Messier globulars, seven are in Sagittarius, three
in Scorpius, and six in Ophiuchus, compared to just one
(M79 in Lepus) in or near the winter Milky Way.
The suspicion was conrmed when radio observations
detected a strong source at right ascension 17
h
45.7
m
,
declination 29 00, a visually unremarkable spot about
5 west-northwest of Gamma ( ) Sagittarii, the western-
This image of NGC 4565 illustrates why its di cult to discern
the Milky Ways structure. We see both galaxies edge-on, with
all their spiral arms superposed. Moreover, most of our galaxy
is blocked from view by the dust that clogs its central plane.
Like the Milky Way, Messier 83 is an SBc spiral. But even with
the luxury of observing it from above, its not easy to discern
M83s structure. How many spiral arms do you count? Two?
Three? Five? Eight?
E
S
O

(
2
)
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 27
most star in the Teapot asterism. Several lines of evidence
indicate that these radio emissions come from an accre-
tion disk spiraling around a supermassive black hole at
the galaxys center.
The galactic nucleus the area around the center
can be studied only at radio, microwave, and infrared
wavelengths because the dust of the galaxys interior
spiral arms, and the dense dust around the nucleus itself,
blocks virtually all radiation at shorter wavelengths. Vis-
ible light from the nucleus is obscured roughly 30 magni-
tudes a factor of one trillion by intervening matter.
The nucleus is something like an extreme globular
cluster, crowding more than 100 million stars into a
sphere some 150 light-years in radius. (By contrast, there
are only about 50,000 stars within 150 light-years of the
Sun.) Deep inside the nucleus are three compact open
clusters of rapidly evolving giant and supergiant stars
mingled with dense gas and dust.
The Central Bulge
Despite the heavy dust clouds in the central regions of our
galaxy, we can see four layers of galactic structure when
we look toward Sagittarius and Scorpius.
The Great Sagittarius Star Cloud is the innermost
galactic structure that can be observed in visible wave-
lengths and the most distant Milky Way structure that
can be seen with the unaided eye. It stretches several
degrees north from Gamma and Delta () Sagittarii and is
a splendid sight in small binoculars a bright glow with
multitudes of momentarily resolved star-sparks. It is in
fact a section of the Milky Ways central bulge.
The central bulge is depleted of the gas and dust
from which new stars form, so unlike the spiral arms it
contains no bright, young, blue stars. Instead, its bright-
est stars are K-type orange giants. So on color photos the
Great Sagittarius Star Cloud has a yellowish tint.
Most of our galaxys bulge is hidden from our view
by the dust of the inner spiral arms. If we could see the
whole bulge, it would stretch from the Stinger of Scorpius
to the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24) and reach
Akira Fujiis masterful photograph shows the central Milky Way as it
appears from mid-northern latitudes. The dotted line marks the galactic
plane. The ellipse shows how big the central bulge would appear if there
was no dust in the way, assuming that its an 8,000 10,000 light-year
ellipsoid centered 27,000 light-years away.
M6
M20
M23
M7
6231
M25
M17
M16
M8
Galactic Center
Great Sgr
Star Cloud
M24
Antares
28 July 2013 sky & telescope
Galactic Depth Perspective
The Sagittarius-Carina Arm of our galaxy is studded with active
star-forming regions. One of the brightest is Messier 16, shown
here in false color with oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur represented
by blue, green, and red, respectively.
more than halfway to Antares, as shown on the preced-
ing page. The Great Sagittarius Star Cloud is visible only
because of a rather large window through the interstellar
dust of the galactic interior.
Several other similar windows allow us to see relatively
long distances across our galaxys spiral disk. Another
window through which we glimpse a segment of the
galaxys central bulge is in the direction of the foreground
open cluster Messier 7 in the Tail of Scorpius. On color
photos the little star cloud around M7 has the same
yellowish tone as the Great Sagittarius Star Cloud to its
north. Thus we see M7, roughly 1,000 light-years away,
superposed on the much more distant galactic bulge.
The Norma Arm
Another window through the interstellar dust of the
galactic interior gives us a view of the second most dis-
tant galactic structure visible in Sagittarius: the Small
Sagittarius Star Cloud, also known as Messier 24. Its a
roughly rectangular glow stretching northeast to south-
west, measuring about 2 , and located 2 north-
northeast of Mu () Sagittarii. In binoculars its not as
bright as the Great Sagittarius Star Cloud, but its more
richly sprinkled with 7th- to 10th-magnitude stars. M24s
estimated distance of 10,000 to 16,000 light-years implies
that its a stretch of one of the deep interior spiral features
of our galaxy. Its binocular appearance conrms this,
because spiral arms have many highly luminous super-
giants that should be easily resolvable in small instru-
ments even at M24s distance.
M24 is probably part of the Norma Arm, the second
spiral arm in from our own Orion-Cygnus Arm. Some
researchers call this the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and use
the term Norma Arm for a smaller arm that lies closer
to the galactic center. This is the terminology adopted in
the galaxy diagram on the foldout Milky Way map in the
center of this magazine.
The bright Norma Star Cloud in the far southern
Milky Way and the Scutum Star Cloud north of Sagittar-
ius probably also lie in the Norma Arm. We will discuss
them in future articles.
The Sagittarius-Carina Arm
Moving outward from the Norma Arm toward the Sun,
the next spiral feature is the Sagittarius-Carina Arm
so named because many major bright emission nebulae
and open clusters are distributed along it from Sagittarius
to Carina. From northeast to southwest these include
M16 (the Star Queen or Eagle Nebula) in Serpens; the
emission nebulae M17 (Swan), M20 (Trid), and M8
(Lagoon) in Sagittarius; the open clusters M21 in Sagit-
tarius and NGC 6231 in Scorpius; the open cluster and
emission nebula NGC 6193 and 6188 in Ara; the open
cluster NGC 4755 (Jewel Box) in Crux; and the giant
emission nebula NGC 3372, also known as the Eta Cari-
nae Nebula. All of the emission nebulae contain embed-
ded clusters and/or associations of young stars, though in
some cases these stars are heavily obscured by dust.
Although its rather far south for observers in the
northern United States and Europe, NGC 6231 in the Tail
of Scorpius, a major tracer of the Sagittarius-Carina Arm,
is well worth viewing in binoculars. Its a special cluster,
one of the richest concentrations of extremely hot and
luminous O-type giants and supergiants known in our
galaxy. An outlying member of the cluster is the 4.8-mag-
nitude star Zeta
1
(
1
) Scorpii, to its south. Zeta
1
is a
B1.5 Ia+ extreme supergiant with an absolute magnitude
around 8.8 (a luminosity of almost 300,000 Suns).
Centered about 1 north-northeast of NGC 6231 is a rich
binocular eld of 6th- to 9th-magnitude stars that is cata-
logued as the open cluster Collinder 316 or Trumpler 24:
its in fact the richest outlying part of Scorpius OB1, the
vast stellar association of which NGC 6231 is the core. This
area is also discussed in Binocular Highlights on page 40.
The Sagittarius-Carina Arm clusters and nebulae in
Sagittarius and Scorpius are between 4,500 and 7,000
light-years distant, suggesting that in this direction the
arm is centered about 5,500 light-years from us. Further
northeast along the arm, M16 in Serpens is somewhat
more distant, about 6,500 light-years. Here the Sagit-
tarius-Carina Arm begins its arc in toward the galactic
interior. The arms incurving edge is at the Scutum Star
Cloud, where the Sagittarius-Carina and Norma arms
may intersect. On the opposite, southwestern end of the
Sagittarius-Carina Arm, the Eta Carinae complex is about
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SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 29
The region around Antares is
where the bright stars of the
Scorpius-Centaurus Association
overlap the dust clouds of the
Great Rift. The stars illuminate
the clouds and also cause them
to uoresce, yielding a riot of
color in deep photographs.
Note the globular cluster Mess-
ier 4 and the contrast between
the red supergiant Antares and
the blue star Sigma () Scorpii.
8,000 light-years away. But other Sagittarius-Carina Arm
associations have been identied beyond it, because here
the arm is beginning to curve out to the galactic exterior
and we have a long view down its outcurving length.
The Orion-Cygnus Arm
The fourth feature of galactic structure visible toward
Sagittarius is of course our own Orion-Cygnus Arm.
Its inner edge is marked by the Great Rift chain of dust
clouds from Deneb on the northeast to Alpha Centauri on
the southwest. The Great Rift will be described in more
detail in the next installment of this article.
The inner edge of the Orion-Cygnus Arm is also traced
by the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, which includes
the majority of the bright stars from Scorpius on the north-
east, through Lupus and Centaurus, to Crux on the south-
west. This association is centered about 550 light-years away
in a direction between Alpha () Lupi and Zeta Centauri,
and is highly elongated, being 700 light-years long, 250
light-years high (perpendicular to the galactic plane),
and 400 light-years deep along our line of sight. Its slightly
nearer than the Great Rift chain of dust clouds, though
Antares and a couple of other stars in the Head and Heart
of Scorpius are just within the nearest fringes of Great Rift
dust. Except for the M-type red supergiant Antares, all the
bright stars of the Scorpius-Centaurus Association are blue
B0, B1, and B2 main-sequence and giant stars. In binocu-
lars the color contrast between ruddy-orange Antares and
the silver-blue Sigma () and Tau () Scorpii to its west-
northwest and southeast is absolutely stunning. All three
stars t in the same binocular eld of view.
Binoculars also show the bright (5.7-magnitude) globu-
lar cluster M4 just 1.3 west of Antares. In 1050 glasses,
M4 appears as a large hazy patch (June issue, page 45). Its
one of the two or three nearest globulars to us, roughly
7,200 light-years away. This is about the same distance
as the Sagittarius-Carina Arm, but globular clusters are
far too old to be true spiral arm tracers. Spiral arms are
thought to change fairly rapidly, perhaps even disappear-
ing and reforming over billion-year time frames. Most of
the Milky Ways globular clusters, by contrast, seem to be
nearly as old as the galaxy itself.
Moreover, M4 is a good way o the Sagittarius-Carina
Arm, about 16 northwest of its core. So observers in M4
would have an excellent view down into the Sagittarius-
Carina Arm. And because M4 is well outside the dust
clouds that lie along the center of the Milky Way, any
observers in the cluster would have a far better view than
we do of the galaxys central bulge.
In the next two articles of this series we will visit our
galaxys cardinal points to further our sense of depth per-
spective on our place in the Milky Way Galaxy.
Craig Crossen is a professional editor living in Vienna, Austria.
He is coauthor with Gerald Rhemann of the book Sky Vistas:
Astronomy for Binoculars and Richest-Field Telescopes.
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Antares
M4
30 July 2013 sky & telescope
Telescope Tips
I aint afraid of no ghosts, but I am afraid of the lmy,
non-ectoplasmic stu that materializes on my telescope
every clear night: dew. Ive been battling the wet stu for
more than 30 years and these days I am usually victori-
ous, but it hasnt always been that way.
I got an education about dew shortly after I bought
my 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope in 1976. At rst,
I was in amateur astronomy heaven, seeing more of the
universe than I ever had with my homemade Newto-
nian reector. But then the stars in the eyepiece began
developing nebulous halos. I knew there wasnt nebulos-
ity around the stars of M37. Was my new scope broken?
A look at the big corrector lens on the front of its tube
revealed the problem: it was sopping wet with dew and
my stargazing was done for the night.
Know Your Enemy
Before you can bust dew, you need to know your enemy.
Where does it come from? Why does it fall? Actually,
dew is nothing more than moisture condensing out of
the air. It doesnt fall, but rather forms on an exposed
surface when that surface becomes colder than the dew-
point temperature, which depends on the humidity. The
higher the humidity, the closer the dew point is to the air
Busting
Dew can form suddenly and almost without warning.
Heres how to stop it from ruining a nice night under the stars.
ROD MOLLISE
Dew has long been the bane of observers, but its especially
problematic for popular Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes such as
the authors 8-inch Celestron pictured here, which has a thin cor-
rector plate that is highly susceptible to dew formation.
Dew
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SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 31
temperature. At 100% humidity, the dew point is equal to
the air temperature and dew will begin to form immedi-
ately. As humidity gets lower, the dew point also becomes
increasingly lower than the air temperature.
A telescopes lens or mirror becomes colder than the
surrounding air because of radiative cooling. Under a
clear night sky, heat is literally sucked out of the optics.
The telescope radiates its heat away into space. After
minutes or hours, the glass cools to below the dew-point
temperature and moisture begins to form.
How much of a problem is dew in astronomy? That
depends on your location and telescope type. If you live in
the desert, theres usually not much to worry about. The
air is so dry and the dew point is so low that no matter
how much the telescope cools, the optics will rarely fog
up. The rst time I attended the Texas Star Party, I was
amazed to nd that my dew troubles had evaporated.
Nothing had the slightest bit of moisture on it by dawn.
Unfortunately, thats not the way it is at my home in Ala-
bama or in most other areas of the country.
A typical Newtonian telescope has its main mirror
at the bottom of a long tube that usually shields it from
all but a small patch of sky. Its heat is radiated away
more slowly than if the mirror was exposed to a full 180
view of heat-sucking space. Observers with Newtonian
telescopes can be troubled by moisture on the telescopes
secondary mirror and eyepieces, but dew is a lesser con-
sideration for them than for owners of refractors, which
have their optics exposed at the top of the tube. Even
more prone to dew are Schmidt-Cassegrain, Maksutov,
and other designs with large corrector lenses at the front
of the tube. Schmidt-Cassegrains thin correctors dew up
fastest, but even Maksutovs, whose thicker lenses retain
heat longer, are not immune.
The Passive Approach
The simplest way to keep dew o a telescopes optics is
to use a dew shield, which emulates the long tube of a
Newtonian. You dont have to put a 4-foot tube on the
end of your Schmidt-Cassegrain, though, just an exten-
sion long enough to block the optics direct line of sight
to everything but the area of the sky where the telescope
is pointed. How long does this dew shield need to be? A
good rule of thumb is at least 1 times longer than the
diameter of the telescopes optics. A good dew shield for
an 8-inch scope will be 12 inches long. Even if your refrac-
tor, like most, came with a dew shield, it may be too short.
If it is, then you should consider replacing it or supple-
menting it with a longer one.
Where do you get a dew shield? Most telescope dealers
sell them in a variety of sizes for refractors and Schmidt-
and Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes. They come in two
types rigid cylinders made of plastic or aluminum, and
exible plastic sheets that are rolled into a cylinder and
held together with Velcro during use. Rigid dew shields
are sturdier and less prone to droop into a telescopes light
path, but they are also less convenient to pack for storage
or transport. Commercial dew shields, regardless of type,
are relatively expensive, especially considering how easy
they are to make.
The material for a homemade dew shield can be
almost anything that can be formed into a cylinder and
slipped over the end of the telescope tube. Ive seen eec-
An exposed Schmidt-Cassegrain corrector plate (above) quickly
radiates its heat into space when pointed at the night sky, causing
its temperature to drop below the dew point with predictably
disastrous results. But attaching a simple dew shield (two com-
mercial models are shown below) to the front of the telescope
tube will slow the radiative heat loss and can sometimes be
enough to ward o dew for an entire night.
32 July 2013 sky & telescope
Telescope Tips
tive disposable ones made of black poster paper. What I
prefer, however, is an insulating material that not only
blocks some of the sky but also helps keep the optics
warm. Readily available materials that Ive used in the
past include foam mats sold in outdoor stores as ground
pads for sleeping bags and aluminized Sun reectors
made for car windshields.
Once you have the material, the rest is easy. Use self-
adhesive Velcro to hold the dew shield in the shape of
a tube when youre ready to put it on the scope, and, if
necessary, you can blacken the interior of the shield with
at-black paint to prevent reections. Thats all there is
to it. If the material isnt rigid enough and tends to droop
into the telescopes light path, it may be necessary to
strengthen the dew shields end, maybe with some layers
of duct tape wrapped around its circumference.
Some nderscopes come with dew shields, but almost
all are too short. As with the main telescope, almost any
material that can be formed into a tube can work as a
nder dew shield. A small container with its bottom cut
o and the interior painted black works well. Ive used
everything from frozen orange juice cans to sh food
containers. How about the popular Telrad reex nders?
Their beam-splitter viewing windows are especially prone
to dewing up. There are inexpensive commercial solu-
tions, but its easy to make a cardboard or plastic cover to
protect the exposed glass.
How about eyepieces? You cant put a dew shield on
them. I often just replace the eyepieces lens cap when
I am not looking through it. The natural heat radiating
from my eyeball keeps the eyepiece clear of dew while Im
observing, but eventually I forget to cap the eyepiece and
dew forms on its outermost lens. The solution is to take
active measures.
The Active Approach
In many areas, a dew shield alone wont keep optics clear
all night. I supplement my dew shield with active dew-
busting tools that warm the optics until they are above
the dew-point temperature. Gentle heat is the key. You
dont want to blast your Schmidt-Cassegrain corrector
Dew strips and heat guns are best used intermittently to keep them from drain-
ing batteries. Advanced dew-strip controllers can automatically cycle the power
to maintain the optics at a set temperature above that of the ambient air.
When a dew shield alone isnt enough to keep the temperature of telescope optics warmer than the dew point, you can actively apply
gentle heat to the optics. One of the best ways to do this for refractors and Schmidt-Cassegrains is with a exible heating strip (left)
wrapped around the telescope tube. Another solution is a battery-powered heat gun such as the one used by the author (right).
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 33
with a 1,500-watt hair dryer. That will most assuredly
remove dew, but it may also distort the gure of the cor-
rector, causing blurred images until it cools o, and when
it does, dew will begin to form again.
One of the most popular active dew busters sold dur-
ing the past 30 years is a dew-removal tool known to ama-
teur astronomers and astronomy vendors as a dew zapper.
These small heat guns are also sold as window defrosters
in auto-parts stores and as battery-powered hair dryers in
sporting-goods stores. Not that these 12-volt devices would
do very well as hair dryers (they dont get hot enough),
but their gentle heat is perfect for removing dew from
telescope optics.
To use one of these dew zappers, aim it at a scopes
lens, holding it about 12 inches from the surface. Keep
it moving as you zap, and continue heating for a while
after the last of the moisture disappears. A little extra heat
will extend the time the lens remains dew free. A zapper
works just as well on nders and eyepieces, and if you
observe from a relatively dry area it may be all you need in
addition to a dew shield.
Dew zappers work, but unless your humidity is low,
you will likely have to dry your optics frequently during
the course of an evening. And this gets old in a hurry.
Inevitably, just as I am about to make the observation
of a lifetime, its time to zap the corrector again. Whats
needed is a way to apply a small amount of constant heat,
just enough to warm the optics above the dew point. A
heating element wrapped around a telescopes lens, will
do the job.
Flexible Dew Heaters
Like most great innovations, its unclear who invented
dew heaters for telescopes. The rising popularity of
Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes in the 1970s made the
time ripe for the idea, and it seems to have sprung from
many sources. Amateurs and retailers began making
simple heater strips, taking nichrome wire (the kind used
in electric toasters) and sewing it into a cloth band that
can be wrapped around the end of a Schmidt-Cassegrain
or refractor. Connect the strip to a battery and dew was
gone and stayed gone.
The initial designs werent perfect, however. When you
plugged a heater strip into a battery, the constant current
drain quickly exhausted even large batteries. The optics
also got hotter than necessary, leading to distortion of
the lens and the formation of hot air currents that ruined
images. Canadian amateur astronomer Jim Kendrick took
the dew heater to the next level, developing a modular
system. His big contribution was adding an electronic
controller that regulated the on-o cycle of power owing
to the heater. This kept the optics from overheating and a
battery from dying a premature death.
There was still room for improvement. It was hard to
know how to set the controller under varying conditions.
If it felt like dew would be heavy, you naturally cranked
up the controller, often draining the battery before the
evening was over. But if you didnt turn it up enough, dew
formed and you were done anyway.
In the 1990s, Ron Keating of Louisiana, which is as
famous for dew as it is for gumbo, was showing o his
DewBuster system that lets the controller decide when to
apply power to the heaters. A temperature sensor set the
controller to keep the heater strips just 5F (3C) warmer
than the ambient air. On most nights this prevented dew
Finders also suer when dew starts to form, and red-dot and
reex nders, such as the Telrad pictured here, are particularly
prone to dewing. Solutions range from custom-made heaters to
dew shields that ip out of the way when the nder is in use.
Canadian ama-
teur Jim Kendrick
developed some of
the rst commer-
cial dew-removal
systems. He was
the rst to intro-
duce a controller
that cycled power
on and o to dew
heaters, preventing
excessive battery
drain and unneces-
sary overheating of
telescope optics.
His company, Ken-
drick Astro Instru-
ments, remains a
leader in the eld.
34 July 2013 sky & telescope
Telescope Tips
from forming. It was a substantial improvement, and
several manufacturers of dew-removal heaters, including
Kendrick, now oer temperature-controlled systems.
You can heat just about anything with a Kendrick or a
DewBuster. Strips are readily available for Schmidt cor-
rectors and refractor objectives in sizes up to 16 inches.
There are also heater strips for 1- and 2-inch eyepieces,
nderscopes (including Telrads), and even laptop com-
puter screens. Got a Newtonian with a secondary mirror
Top: As explained in the accompanying text, the placement of dew heaters is
important to their success. The author recommends wrapping heaters around
the telescope tube just behind a refractors objective or a Schmidt-Cassegrains
corrector rather than around the cell holding the optics. Above: Dew is a problem
for more than just telescope optics. A simple cardboard enclosure is an eective
way to keep computers and other electronic equipment dew free.
that collects dew? Youre not left out. Dew heaters are
available for Newtonian secondaries too.
Dew heaters are a simple and elegant idea, but there
are a few things to consider if they are to be eective.
The rst is battery capacity. Most manufacturers give an
estimate of the current consumption of their heaters. For
example, when its on, a heater strip for an 8-inch correc-
tor might draw 1 ampere of current. Although the heater
isnt likely to be on all the time, for the sake of determin-
ing how large a battery you need its best to assume it will
be. If a typical observing session lasts 8 hours, choose a
battery rated for at least 8 ampere hours of output. Once
you add in heaters for eyepieces and nders, a 17-ampere-
hour battery is just about right.
Second is timing. Power up the heaters no later than
sunset, since thats when the telescope begins to cool
rapidly. I uncap my corrector or objective and turn on the
dew controller a half hour before the Sun slips below the
horizon to allow adequate time for the optics to warm
up. The goal is to prevent dew from forming in the rst
place. It is much easier to keep dew o a lens than it is
to remove it. I normally set my DewBusters controller to
5 above ambient, but increase it to 10 when I expect the
dew to be heavy.
Third is placement. With a Schmidt-Cassegrain,
its important to wrap the heater strip for the corrector
around the telescope tube just behind the big metal lens
cell for the corrector. If the strip goes over the cell, too
much of its heat will go to warming the metal, not the
lens. Positioned behind the cell, the strips heat will rise
inside the tube and warm the corrector e ciently. The
same thing goes for a refractor: place the strip behind the
objective cell. Placement of the heater strip on eyepieces
and nders is not as critical; just wrap a strip around the
eyepiece and the objective end of the nder. Lastly, heat-
ers always work best in conjunction with a dew shield.
Indeed, they will often fail to keep dew away for an entire
night just by themselves.
One recent humid evening, I was happy to help a
novice astronomer learn to bust dew. He hadnt thought
a dew shield or heaters were important since they werent
in the box with his new Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
If I hadnt loaned him my dew zapper gun, he wouldnt
have seen anything his corrector began to dew up right
at sunset. I used to tell novices that dew-removal gear
is just as important as eyepieces, but I was wrong. It is
more important. You can always see something with the
simplest, cheapest eyepiece , but unless you are prepared
to deal with dew, you may not see a thing.
Contributing editor, noted book author, and long-time ama-
teur astronomer Rod Mollise most often battles dew in the
observing elds around his home in Mobile, Alabama. His
article on deep-sky observing with video cameras appears in
last Februarys issue, page 70.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 35
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Fred Schaaf
OBSERVING
Northern Hemispheres Sky
Fred Schaaf welcomes your
comments at fschaaf@aol.com.
Tales of the Northern Crown
This small constellation is full of drama, both real and mythological.
38 July 2013 sky & telescope
Last month in this column, we began a tour and appraisal
of the lovely constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern
Crown. This month well consider two of the constellations
remarkable double stars, its amazing recurrent nova, and two
of its most beautiful legends.
Double-star wonders. The members of the Eta () Coro-
nae Borealis system have a tight 42-year orbit and so have
completed almost 4 revolutions since their discovery by
Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve in 1826. The two stars,
near twins of our Sun, lie only 59 light-years from us. Their
apparent magnitudes are 5.6 and 6.1 but their small separa-
tion currently 0.7 calls for a night of very steady seeing
and a telescope with at least 8 inches of aperture.
Zeta () Coronae Borealis, up in the northern part of the
constellation, is a pair of 5.0- and 6.0-magnitude stars that
are an easy 6 apart. Zeta has been rated one of the six most
beautiful colored doubles for small telescopes on a list com-
piled by Michel Duval in the Observers Handbook published
by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. What colors do
you see in Zeta?
Watching for the blaze. Recurrent novae are systems in
which material falling from a star onto an unusually mas-
sive white dwarf companion sets o tremendous outbursts
of brightness at intervals of a few to many decades. The
brightest of all these objects is located only about 1 south of
Epsilon () Coronae Borealis. The stars name is T Coronae
Borealis, but it is also known as the Blaze Star.
T CrB usually shines at 10th magnitude. But on May 12,
1866, T amed up to a magnitude of 2.0, slightly brighter
than Alpha () CrB. Then the Blaze Star began to fade, at the
rapid rate of about magnitude a day, eventually returning
to its original dimness. But on February 9, 1946, the Blaze
Star burst forth again, this time to a maximum of 3.0. Do the
outbursts occur with a regular period, in which case another
will take place in 2026? Its possible that one of these times
so much material will fall on the white dwarf that T will blow
up as a Type Ia supernova and shine as bright as a crescent
Moon even though its more than 2,000 light-years distant.
Two lovely myths. In Greek mythology, the semicircle of
Corona Borealis is the crown of Ariadne, daughter of King
Minos of Crete. She helped the hero Theseus escape from the
winding Labyrinth in which Theseus killed the monstrous
Minotaur, who was part man, part bull. Then Ariadne ran o
with Theseus, who had pledged his love to her. But Theseus
abandoned Ariadne on a lonely island. Fortunately, the god
Dionysius found the sad woman, courted her, and made her
his queen. After a happy life, when Ariadne died, Dionysius
placed the crown he had given her up in the heavens
where we see it shine in honor of her as Corona Borealis.
Another story this one from the Shawnee Indians
tells how the warrior Algon spirited away the loveliest
maiden in a circle of heavenly sisters who had come down
to Earth to dance. The other sisters ed back to the heavens,
and the loveliest maiden fell in love with Algon and became
his wife. But she also missed her sisters, and one day she
returned to the sky with them in a silver basket.
The story has a happy ending: Algon was allowed to come
to the heavens, where he became our star Arcturus. We see
the dancing circle of sisters near him as Corona Borealis, but
the circle is incomplete. So where is the loveliest sister? Is she
joined with Algon in Arcturus? Or, just possibly, could she be
the Blaze Star? S
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Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve discovered that Eta
Coronae Borealis is a double star with the great 9-inch
Dorpat Refractor, shown above.
MI DNI GHT SUNRI SE
Mercury
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
SUNSET
Planet Visibility SHOWN FOR LATITUDE 40 NORTH AT MID-MONTH
Visible July 24 through August 16
Visible starting July 5
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SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
Moon Phases
29
OBSERVING
Sky at a Glance
EXACT FOR
LATITUDE
40 NORTH.
Galaxy
Double star
Variable star
Open cluster
Diuse nebula
Globular cluster
Planetary nebula
Using the Map
Go out within an hour of a time
listed to the right. Turn the map
around so the yellow label for
the direction youre facing is at
the bottom. Thats the horizon.
Above it are the constellations
in front of you. The center
of the map is overhead.
Ignore the parts of the
map above horizons
youre not facing.
JULY 2013
3 Dusk: An hour after sunset, binoculars or a
wide-eld telescope may show that Venus, very
low in the west-northwest, is on the edge of
M44, the Beehive Cluster.
5 Earth is at aphelion, its farthest from the Sun
for the year (3.3% farther than it is at perihelion
in January).
15 Evening: Spica is very close to the rst-quarter
Moon as seen from the Americas. The Moon
occults (covers) Spica in parts of Central and
South America.
16 Evening: Saturn shines above the Moon, with
Spica now to their right.
16, 17 Dawn: Jupiter and Mars have closed to just
2.2 apart, very low in the east-northeast an
hour before sunrise. Binoculars or a telescope
may show that the open star cluster Messier
35 is above Mars.
21 Dusk: Look 1 lower left of Venus for much
fainter Regulus very low in the west 45 minutes
after sunset. Bring binoculars.
22 Dawn: Faint Mars glimmers upper left of
bright Jupiter low in the east-northeast an hour
before sunrise. Best in binoculars and small
telescopes.
Dusk: Regulus is again very near Venus
this time 1 below the planet.
New July 8 3:14 a.m. EDT
Full July 22 2:16 p.m. EDT
First Qtr July 15 11:18 p.m. EDT
Last Qtr July 29 1:43 p.m. EDT
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July 19

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Gary Seronik
Binocular Highlight
False Comet, Real Beauty
One of the very nest binocular elds in the entire sky
is located in Scorpius, just north of the eastern bend
in the constellations sh hook. There youll nd a
trio of interesting sights that, when taken together,
form a splendid splash of starlight known as the
False Comet. The moment you train your binoculars
on this ersatz comet, the illusion is shattered. But
that doesnt mean the view is any less splendid
quite the contrary.
The nucleus of the False Comet is a lovely star
triangle consisting of the bright, wide, optical double
Zeta () Scorpii (magnitudes 3.6 and 4.8, separated
by roughly 6) and a neighboring 5.8-magnitude
star situated due south. Look closely at the Zeta pair.
Can you make out any colors? To my eye, the brighter
of the two has a lovely, honey-yellow tint, while its
companion is a cool white.
Proceeding up the tail of the comet, we come to
the pretty, compact open cluster NGC 6231. In my
1030 image-stabilized binoculars, I can make out
a tight quartet of 6th-magnitude stars enmeshed in
a compact background haze of faint starlight. My
1545s double the number of individual stars in the
cluster, adding to its sparkly splendor.
A curving row of 6th- and 7th-magnitude stars
trails north-northwest from NGC 6231 to the
big open cluster Collinder 316, also known as
Trumpler 24. Forming the broad end of the comets
tail, Cr 316 is a sparse collection of eight fairly
bright stars along with a smattering of fainter glints
winking in and out of view in my 1030s. I can also
make out a second clump of stars near the clusters
northeast edge, lending the comets tail an extra
touch of luminance.
To watch a video tutorial on how to use the big sky
map on the left, hosted by S&T senior editor Alan
MacRobert, visit SkyandTelescope.com/maptutorial.
Watch a SPECIAL VIDEO
6268
6231
Cr 316
6242
6281
6322

S C OR P I US
When
Late May 2 a.m.*
Early June 1 a.m.*
Late June Midnight*
Early July 11 p.m.*
Late July Dusk
* Daylight-saving time.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 40
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5
About the Image & Its Photographer
This Milky Way panorama is a mosaic of almost
1,200 separate images taken by French astropho-
tographer Serge Brunier and composited by his
friend Frdric Tapissier. Brunier shot most of the
photos from Chile, but he completed the northern
section in the French Alps and on a mountaintop in
the Canary Islands, pictured at left.
The detail shown here is limited by the printing
process; the original 800-gigapixel mosaic can
easily fll a 12-foot-wide poster. You can zoom in
to see any piece of it in more detail at sergebrunier.
com/gallerie/pleinciel/index-eng.html.
M38
M36
M37
Capella
Double Cluster
Andromeda
Galaxy
Le
Cygnus OB7
Cepheus OB2
A U R I GA
C A S S I OP E I A
180
150
Hyades
Pleiades
Alpha
Persei
Cluster
P
erseus OB3
120
e Gentil 3
North
America
Nebula
Northern
Coalsack
Cygnus
Star Cloud
Great Rift
M11
M16
M8
M17
M24
Altair
Deneb
Vega
LY R A
A QU I L A
S
NOR T HE R N
C R OS S
90
60
30
Go u l d s B e l t
Jupiter in 2008
G
150
120
90
60
30
P
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A
The drawing at right was made by Robert Hurt, artist and astronomer for the
California Institute of Technology, and published by NASA. It represents the
current best information about our Milky Way Galaxys structure. Its based
on recent studies with infrared and radio telescopes, which can penetrate
the dust clouds that block most of our galaxy from view in visible light. The
dust clouds lining the inner edge of our own Orion Spur form the Great Rift
that stretches from Deneb on the left to Alpha Centauri on the right.
These dust clouds are actually composed almost entirely of hydrogen and
helium, but those gases are transparent, so we dont see them. The dust
that blocks the light actually consists of tiny solid particles, more like soot or
smoke than what we normally call dust.
Totally unseen is the huge halo of dark matter that envelops the entire
galaxy. We know its there only because of its gravitational eects.
Like most spiral galaxies, the Milky Way is nearly at, except for a spheri-
cal bulge near its center. Its very di cult to discern our galaxys spiral struc-
ture because we see it edge-on, with all the spiral arms superposed. For
instance, the cluster M7, roughly 1,000 light-years distant, lies in front of
the stars of the galaxys central bulge, more than 20,000 light-years distant.
Even when we can measure the distances to various features accurately,
it is still very di cult to say how they link up into spiral arms. So the precise
structure of our galaxy is still an open question.
The Spiral Galaxy That We Call Home
Sun
Scutum
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M7
6231
3532
25
6193 + 6188
Dark Horse
Scorpius OB1
Great Sagittarius
Star Cloud
Norma
Star Cloud
Alpha Centauri
Omega Centauri
Eta Carinae
Nebula
Southern
Pleiades
Large Mage
Small Magellanic Cloud
Coalsack
Jewel Box
Antares
S C OR P I U S
V E L A
S OU T HE R N
C R OS S
S A GI T TA R I U S
0
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300
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alactic Longitude
0
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Galactic longitude is marked out at 30 inter-
vals by tick marks along the galactic equator.
Longitude 0 marks the position of the galactic
center. When we look in that direction, toward
Sagittarius and Scorpius, we see at least three
spiral arms (including our own) superposed in
front of the central bulge. This area is dis-
cussed and charted in more detail in the article
Observing the Milky Way, Part I, on page 24.
When we look toward galactic longitude
180, between Auriga and Gemini, were
looking directly away from the galactic center.
Thats why the Milky Way appears so much
Galactic Longitude
dimmer and thinner in this direction. Because
our Sun is located toward the inside of our own
Orion Spur, our view in this direction includes
many stars and a few star clusters within the
Orion Spur, notably the Alpha Persei Cluster.
But most of the clusters and nebulae in this
area lie in the Perseus Arm, the next spiral arm
out from our own. The brightest of these is the
magnicent Double Cluster in Perseus.
516
M41
M47
M35
2264
M48
Rosette Nebula
Betelgeuse
M44
Procyon
M46
Sirius
Rigel
Great Orion
Nebula
Monoceros OB2
Gemini OB1
Orion OB1
ellanic Cloud
Canopus
C A R I NA
P U P P I S
OR I ON
270
240
210
C
a
n
is
M
ajor Assoc
ia
t
i
o
n
Galactic Equator
M
onoceros O
B
1
Galactic Equator: the plane of our
Milky Way Galaxy.
Goulds Belt: Most nearby star
clusters and nebulae, both bright
and dark, lie near this line.
Stellar associations: large groups
of young stars, usually types O and
B, that all have a common origin.
Most of the associations shown
above have been adapted from
Glenn LeDrews detailed Milky Way
charts in The Backyard Astrono-
mers Guide (Firey Books, 2010).
Dark nebulae: areas where the
Milky Way is hidden from view by
nearby dust clouds.
Star clouds: rich patches of spiral
arms or the central bulge that are
visible through windows in dust
clouds.
90 Sherman Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
SkyandTelescope.com
OBSERVING
Sun, Moon & Planets
45 July 2013 sky & telescope
July Planet Pairings
Venus passes Regulus, and Jupiter pairs with Mars.
For all of July, bright Venus appears low
in the west at dusk, and dim Mars glows
low in the east-northeast at dawn. Both
planets have exciting close conjunctions
in the latter part of the month: Regulus
drops down very close past Venus, and
Jupiter oats up very close past Mars.
Saturn, meanwhile, is visible from
dusk until the middle of the night. And
at Julys end, Mercury peeks up very
low in the east-northeast at dawn below
Jupiter and Mars.
DUS K
Venus sets only about 1 hours after
the Sun all summer for viewers at mid-
northern latitudes. It stands only about
10 above the western horizon by the
time its plainly visible a half hour after
sundown. Thats so low that its di cult
for telescopes to show that its 12-wide
disk is slightly gibbous. So the best time
to observe Venus through a telescope is
well before sunset, as described on page
51 of last months issue.
The biggest attraction for Venus-
watchers this month is its close conjunc-
tion with 1st-magnitude Regulus. The
star begins July 25 to Venuss upper
left, but closes the gap steadily. They
pass just 1 apart on the American
evenings of July 21st and 22nd. Venus
shines at magnitude 3.9, 130 times
brighter than Regulus at +1.4. Even so,
Regulus should be visible to the naked
eye if your sky isnt too hazy. Binoculars
and small rich-eld telescopes will show
the pair beautifully.
E V E NI NG A ND NI GHT
Saturn, near the boundary of Virgo and
Libra, is several months past opposition
but still well placed at nightfall almost
halfway up the south or southwest sky.
It fades just a trace during July, from
magnitude +0.5 to +0.6. Saturn is station-
ary in right ascension on July 9th, so it
spends the entire month about midway
between Spica and Alpha Librae.
Saturn is at eastern quadrature
90 east of the Sun on July 24th. So
July and August are when the planets
black shadow is especially wide on the
magnicent rings, just o the globes
eastern edge. Observe Saturn through
your scope early, before it sinks low.
Pluto, the brightest Kuiper Belt
object, reaches opposition on July 2nd
but still shines at only about magnitude
14.0. To detect and identify the far-ung
world visually requires dark skies, a
fairly large amateur telescope, and a
detailed nder chart such as the one on
page 52 of last months issue.
No bright planet is visible for several
hours after Saturn sets. But Neptune
rises before midnight (daylight-saving
time), and Uranus rises 1 hours after
Neptune. Theyre in Aquarius and
Pisces respectively, high enough for
good telescopic viewing at the onset of
morning twilight. You can nd them
with the maps at skypub.com/urnep.
DAWN
Mars begins July as a 1.5-magnitude
object thats only about 8 high in the
east-northeast 30 minutes before sun-
Aldebaran
Pleiades
Moon
July 3
Moon
July 4
Moon
July 5
Looking East
Dawn, July 35
1 hour before sunrise
10
Dawn, July 56
30 minutes before sunrise
Aldebaran
Mars
Jupiter
Moon
July 5
Moon
July 6
Looking East-Northeast
Tau
Tau
Dusk, July 1012
45 minutes after sunset
Regulus
Denebola
Venus
Moon
July 10
Moon
July 11
Moon
July 12
Looking West
L E O

Fred Schaaf To see what the sky looks like at any given time and date, go to SkyandTelescope.com/skychart.
Jupiter
Neptune
Uranus
Pluto
Saturn
March
equinox
Sept.
equinox
December
solstice
June solstice
Mars
Earth
Sun
Mercury
Venus
ORBI TS OF THE PLANETS
The curved arrows show each planets
movement during July. The outer planets
dont change position enough in a month
to notice at this scale.
rise (if youre near 40 north latitude). At
that time and date Jupiter is just rising,
10 to Marss lower left. Even though
Jupiter shines at magnitude 1.9, its so
low as sunrise nears that youll need
binoculars to see it.
On the American morning of July
6th, a lovely crescent Moon acts as a
guide to nding Mars in binoculars just
a few degrees to the Moons upper left.
A telescope might show the star Zeta ()
Tauri between them. By this date, Jupiter
may be high enough to see without opti-
cal aid to their lower left.
Jupiter climbs closer to Mars each day
until, on the morning of July 22nd the
same day Venus and Regulus are closely
paired at nightfall Jupiter and Mars
are only 0.8 apart. Theyll t together in
a low-magnication telescopic eld that
morning, though Mars will be a blurry
speck less than 4 wide compared to
Jupiters 33 globe.
By Julys end Mars is rising more
than 2 hours before the Sun, and Jupiter
is pulling up and away from Mars into
much more obvious view. Or at least this
is the perspective relative to sunrise. In
relation to the background stars, Mars
is racing eastward into central Gemini,
leaving much slower Jupiter behind in
the Twins feet.
Mercury is in inferior conjunction
with the Sun on July 9th, and its too dim
and low in morning twilight to be visible
until the last week of July. Then Mercury
brightens rapidly, reaching almost zero
magnitude by the time it comes to great-
est elongation on July 30th. Mercurys
minimum separation below Mars is
about 7 on July 28th.
E A R T H A ND MOON
Earth is at aphelion, its farthest from the
Sun in space, around 11 a.m. EDT on
July 5th. Its distance then is 94,509,959
miles, 1.7% farther than average.
The Moon is a waning dawn sliver
near Mars and Jupiter on July 6th (as
described above) and a waxing dusk
sliver rather far below Venus and Regu-
lus on July 10th and 11th. Around rst
quarter, the evening Moon shines very
near Spica on July 15th and well below
Saturn on July 16th.
Dawn, July 22
45 minutes before sunrise
Castor
Pollux
Mercury
Mars
Jupiter
Looking East-Northeast
Just
3
/
4

apart!
Dawn, July 31
1 hour before sunrise
Castor
Pollux
Mercury
Mars
Jupiter
Looking East-Northeast
G E MI NI

Dusk, July 22
45 minutes after sunset
Regulus
Just
1
1
/
4

apart!
Denebola
Venus
Looking West
L E O
OBSERVING
Planetary Almanac
Sun and Planets, July 2013
The table above gives each objects right ascension and declination (equinox 2000.0) at 0h Universal Time on selected
dates, and its elongation from the Sun in the morning (Mo) or evening (Ev) sky. Next are the visual magnitude and
equatorial diameter. (Saturns ring extent is 2.27 times its equatorial diameter.) Last are the percentage of a planets disk
illuminated by the Sun and the distance from Earth in astronomical units. (Based on the mean EarthSun distance, 1 a.u. is
149,597,871 kilometers, or 92,955,807 international miles.) For other dates, see SkyandTelescope.com/almanac.
Planet disks at left have south up, to match the view in many telescopes. Blue ticks indicate the pole currently tilted
toward Earth.
Sun 1 6
h
39.8
m
+23 07 26.8 31 28 1.017
31 8
h
40.7
m
+18 19 26.8 31 31 1.015
Mercury 1 7
h
33.7
m
+18 30 13 Ev +3.2 11.5 7% 0.587
11 7
h
10.2
m
+17 34 5 Mo +5.4 11.7 1% 0.575
21 6
h
55.6
m
+18 41 16 Mo +2.1 9.9 13% 0.682
31 7
h
18.0
m
+20 26 20 Mo 0.0 7.5 41% 0.893
Venus 1 8
h
26.1
m
+20 52 25 Ev 3.8 11.1 90% 1.504
11 9
h
15.6
m
+17 39 27 Ev 3.9 11.5 88% 1.452
21 10
h
02.8
m
+13 39 30 Ev 3.9 11.9 86% 1.396
31 10
h
48.1
m
+9 06 32 Ev 3.9 12.5 83% 1.337
Mars 1 5
h
21.7
m
+23 32 18 Mo +1.5 3.8 99% 2.453
16 6
h
06.4
m
+23 58 22 Mo +1.6 3.8 98% 2.433
31 6
h
50.3
m
+23 38 26 Mo +1.6 3.9 98% 2.401
Jupiter 1 6
h
04.1
m
+23 13 8 Mo 1.9 32.2 100% 6.129
31 6
h
33.0
m
+23 03 30 Mo 1.9 32.9 100% 5.988
Saturn 1 14
h
13.0
m
10 43 115 Ev +0.5 17.8 100% 9.357
31 14
h
14.3
m
10 58 87 Ev +0.6 16.9 100% 9.841
Uranus 16 0
h
46.5
m
+4 13 101 Mo +5.8 3.6 100% 19.825
Neptune 16 22
h
27.6
m
10 23 139 Mo +7.8 2.3 100% 29.214
Pluto 16 18
h
41.4
m
19 53 166 Ev +14.0 0.1 100% 31.486
The Sun and planets are positioned for mid-July; the colored arrows show the motion of each during the month. The Moon is plotted for evening dates in the Americas when its waxing (right side
illuminated) or full, and for morning dates when its waning (left side). Local time of transit tells when (in Local Mean Time) objects cross the meridian that is, when they appear due south and
at their highest at mid-month. Transits occur an hour later on the 1st, and an hour earlier at months end.
Pollux
Arcturus
CORVUS
V I R GO
B O T E S
L I B R A
L E O
H Y D R A
Regulus
P E GA S US
CAPRI CORNUS
AQUARIUS
Fomalhaut
Rigel
Betelgeuse
C A NI S
MA J OR
PI SCES
Sirius
OR I ON
Pleiades
TAURUS
Castor
Procyon
Vega
GEMINI
HE R C U L E S
C Y G N U S
S C OR P I US
OP HI UC HUS
Antares
SAGITTARIUS
AQUI LA
CETUS
ERI DANUS
A R I E S
Midnight 2 am 4 am 6 am 8 am 10 am 8 pm 6 pm 4 pm 2 pm
+30
+40
10
20
30
40
+10
+30
0
10
20
30
40
RIGHT ASCENSION
4
h
6
h
8
h
10
h
12
h
14
h
16
h
18
h
20
h
22
h
0
h
2
h
D
E
C
L
I
N
A
T
I
O
N
E QU AT OR
0
+10
LOCAL TIME OF TRANSIT
10 pm
E C L I P T I C
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
Jupiter
Venus
Mars
Mercury
26
29
July 3
12
15
18
July
22 23
Mercury
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
10"
July 1 11 21 31
16
16 31 1
16
16
31 1
July Right Ascension Declination Elongation Magnitude Diameter Illumination Distance
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 47
48 July 2013 sky & telescope
OBSERVING
Celestial Calendar
The Nearest Star for Northerners
Barnards Star is the closest known thing to the solar system after Alpha Centauri.
I have Alpha Centauri envy. The spec-
tacular, zero-magnitude double star Alpha
Cen AB, and its faint, red-dwarf tag-along
Alpha Cen C (Proxima Centauri) 2 to one
side, are so far south at about declination
61 that theyre forever out of sight north
of Miami or thereabouts.
So the next closest star ought to be on
every northern observers life list. Thats
Barnards Star, a red dwarf 5.98 light-years
away in Ophiuchus, spectral type M3.5V.
At visual magnitude 9.6 its a pretty easy
pickup with a small scope, if you have
good charts like the ones below.
Start from Beta () Ophiuchi, the east-
ern shoulder of Ophiuchus. (Find his stick
gure on our constellation map on pages
39 40, above the Facing South hori-
zon.) From there jump 5 east to the dim,
Hyades-like V known as Taurus Poniato-
vii, Poniatowskis Bull, marked in purple
below. Its stars are 4th and 5th magnitude.
From the northwestern tip of the V,
marked by the star 66 Ophiuchi, use
your main scope to nd the 7th-magnitude
triangle 1 to the northwest thats marked
on the maps and the photo at right. Nar-
row in to Barnards Star from there.
Not only is Barnards Star the nearest
nighttime star visible from north temper-
ate latitudes, its also, by no coincidence,
the star with the fastest proper motion in
the sky. Thats how it caught the attention
of Edward Emerson Barnard in 1916. Its
traveling north at 10.3 arcseconds per year,
as shown by the yellow arrow on the close-
up chart. Amateur imagers can measure
its proper motion in a matter of weeks. Its
visual position changes noticeably over
several years. S&T senior editor Dennis di
Cicco even made a project of measuring
Barnards Star weaving through its 1.1 of
total annual parallax motion.
While youre in the area, also take a
closer look at one of the stars of Taurus
Poniatovii, 70 Ophiuchi. Its a nearby
double orange dwarf, magnitudes 4.2 and
6.2, spectral types K0V and K4V, current
separation 6.1. The pair makes a lovely
sight in small scopes. The two stars, 16.6
light-years away, emit 50% and 9% as
much visible light as the Sun, while Bar-
nards Star glows with only 0.04% of the
Suns visible luminosity.
No telescope? The closest star past
Alpha Centauri thats visible in binoculars
is Lalande 21185, magnitude 7.5, located
8.3 light-years away in Ursa Major. Use the
nder chart at skypub.com/lalande21185.
Use these charts to pinpoint Barnards Star, magnitude 9.6,
o the eastern shoulder of Ophiuchus. On the wide chart at
left, the small box shows the eld of the close-up below and
the photo at right. The arrow shows more than 100 years of the
stars proper motion. The star is plotted at its 2013.5 position.
17
h
58
m
17
h
56
m
18
h
00
m
+5
+4.5
Barnard's Star
66 Oph
1950
2000
2050
S
t
a
r

m
a
g
n
i
t
u
d
e
s
7
6
5
8
9
10
11
+8 8
6
4
2
67
68
70
73
IC 4665
6535
OP H I U C H U S
T a u r u s
P o n i a t o v i i
17
h
50
m
17
h
40
m
18
h
00
m
+6
+4
+2
0
66
Barnard's Star

S
t
a
r

m
a
g
n
i
t
u
d
e
s
4
3
5
6
7
8
For a blink-comparison animation of
the eld at right from about 1951 to
2013.3, see skypub.com/barnards.
Many fainter stars show much smaller
proper-motion hops of their own.
Alan MacRobert
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 49
Asteroid Occultation
On the morning of July 29th, a 9.1-magnitude orange star in
Aries will vanish for up to 3 seconds behind the invisibly faint
asteroid 1074 Beljawskya, as seen along a narrow track running
from west Texas through southern Missouri, Ohio, south-
easternmost Ontario, and the Montreal area. The occultation
happens within a few minutes of 8:56 UT. For a map, nder
charts, more about asteroid occultations, and additional pre-
dictions, see skypub.com/july2013asteroidoccultation.
The Barnards Star eld as imaged this spring. The frame is 1 wide, matching the close-up chart at left.
Lunar Occultation
On the night of July 1920, telescope users observing the waxing
gibbous Moon from most of North America can watch the Moons
invisible dark limb creep up to and occult the 4.4-magnitude star Xi
Ophiuchi. Only Florida and the northern West miss out.
Some disappearance times: in western Massachusetts, 12:38 a.m.
EDT; Atlanta, 12:32 a.m. EDT; Chicago, 11:10 p.m. CDT; Winnipeg, 10:50
p.m. CDT; Kansas City, 11:00 p.m. CDT; Austin, 11:07 p.m. CDT; Den-
ver, 9:39 p.m. MDT; Los Angeles, 8:24 p.m. PDT. Start watching early.
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66 Oph
Need help matching star charts to what you see in your scope? Learn how: skypub.com/charts.
50 July 2013 sky & telescope
OBSERVING
Celestial Calendar
JULY METEORS
Several minor, long-lasting meteor
showers with radiants in the southern
sky are active during July, including the
Alpha Capricornids, Piscis Austrinids,
and Northern and Southern Delta
Aquarids. All are weak, but together
they increase the chance that a meteor
you see late on a July night will be com-
ing out of the south.
One of the things I like about amateur
astronomy is that so much is going on
over everyones heads thats so easy to see
for the few who know how. The constel-
lations (at least the brightest ones) are
always old friends. And with binoculars
you can spot things from your back porch
that are known only to a very tiny elite of
the worlds 7 billion people, most of whom
never really look up.
Big Ophiuchus eternally holds his
snake Serpens in the southern sky on
June and July evenings (seen from north-
ern latitudes). A diagonal row of four 2nd-
and 3rd-magnitude stars marks his hands
and the part of the snake between them
(illustrated on pages 39 40). The lower
left of these stars is Eta () Ophiuchi, or
Sabik, magnitude 2.4. And did you know
what lies just southwest of it?
The deep-orange, Mira-type star R
Ophiuchi wont catch your eye in binoculars
unless youre looking for it. Often it wont
be there at all; its a long-period variable
that spends some of its time as faint as 13th
magnitude. But every 10 months, it rises
into binocular visibility for several weeks.
One of those times is now. R Ophiuchi
should have a maximum centered around
June 20th, predicts the American Associa-
tion of Variable Star Observers (aavso.org).
How bright it will become is not very pre-
dictable. In recent years R Oph has peaked
as bright as magnitude 6.8 and as faint as
8.5, a factor-of-ve visual brightness dier-
ence, with no apparent rhyme or reason.
R Oph
Sabik

60
67
75
96
101
94
85
60
77
83
24
1
OP H I U C H U S
A Mira to Admire
Use the chart below to identify it and
estimate its magnitude when you take
binocs out to have a look around. The
chart gives nearby comparison stars
magnitudes to the nearest tenth with the
decimal points omitted.
Mira-type stars are pulsing red giants
in a late stage of life. As they expand
and contract they cool and heat, and this
causes light-blocking molecules in their
outer atmospheres to form and break.
And why do some stars pulse? The
basic mechanism is simple. Deeper
below the surface, a layer develops that
becomes ionized as it heats, which turns
the layer more opaque. This causes it to
bottle in the heat coming from below,
which drives the star to expand, which
cools the critical layer, which loses its
ionization and becomes transparent
again, letting the heat out. Think of a
apping lid on a pot of boiling water.
This process is simple in orderly,
highly regular pulsating stars such as
Cepheids and RR Lyraes. Matters are
more complicated in the giant, cool
Miras. They have those atmospheric
molecules. Their surface gravity is weak,
so they can become irregular blobs
rather than clean spheres. They cool
enough at minimum to shift almost all
of their visible light into the infrared.
And they may throw o smoky dust.
Take a look this evening and make a
faithful, if odd and sometimes elusive,
new friend that you can keep for life.
So much for red dwarfs (previous page); heres a noteworthy red giant. How accurately can you judge
the brightness of R Ophiuchi as it swells and fades in June and July? This eld is 4 wide, a little
smaller than the view in most binoculars and nderscopes. The numbers are comparison-star magni-
tudes to the nearest tenth (decimal points omitted).
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 51
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52 July 2013 sky & telescope
OBSERVING
Exploring the Solar System
Refecting on PanSTARRS
Rarely is such a bright comet so hard to see.
As Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) recedes from its brief
pass through the inner solar system, we can now look
back and sum up this bright but challenging visitor.
Discovered as part of the Panoramic Survey Telescope
and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) program,
the 19th-magnitude comet was rst seen on June 5,
2011 in northern Scorpius. The comet was then about 8
astronomical units (a.u.) from the Sun and nearly two
years from perihelion. What made the discovery particu-
larly noteworthy was the initial orbit determination that
showed the comet would come as close to the Sun as the
planet Mercury, implying an enormous rise in brightness
by the time the comet rounded the Sun.
Word that a potentially brilliant comet is in the o ng
is always taken as exciting news, especially in the internet
age. Bloggers, science news sites, and posts on count-
less amateur forums heralded the comets approach with
optimistic headlines such as New comet may blaze with
the brightness of Venus in the spring of 2013!
Even though comets are known for being ckle when
it comes to brightness predictions, in the months follow-
ing PanSTARRSs discovery it did appear to increase in
brightness according to, or even exceeding, predictions.
At the beginning of November 2012, as the comet headed
into the evening twilight, it was roughly 10th magni-
tude, and seemingly on its way to fullling expectations.
Together with the subsequent discovery of Comet ISON
(C/2012 S1) in September 2012, some internet wags were
dubbing 2013 to be the Year of the Comet.
Unfortunately, what had largely been ignored in the
building excitement was that the orbit of C/2011 L4 was
clearly hyperbolic, indicating that the comet was inbound
from the distant Oort Cloud that surrounds our solar
system. This would be Comet PanSTARRSs rst visit to
the inner solar system, and historically such comets tend
to be poor performers that dont live up to expectations.
Recent history has presented us with several examples,
including Comet Cunningham in 1942, and the infamous
Comet Kohoutek in 1974 (April issue, page 32). Both were
initially labeled as a Comet of the Century, and both
ended up falling far short of the mark.
When Comet PanSTARRS emerged into the January
2013 morning sky, it was decidedly fainter than had been
expected. During the ensuing weeks its rate of brighten-
ing was also much slower than it had been in the preced-
ing months. The comet was behaving in a manner typical
of many dynamically new comets that are approaching
the Sun for the rst time. Their initial outgassing when
they are still far from the Sun is generated by volatile ices
such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, rather than
Despite achieving a respectable brightness, Comet PanSTARRS
clung low near the western horizon for weeks following perihe-
lion, dimming what otherwise might have been a brilliant display.
The comet was also unusual in its general lack of an ion tail. S
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SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 53
John E. Bortle John E. Bortle is an internationally recognized comet observer and long-time contributor to Sky & Telescope.
water ice. But as these inbound comets cross a threshold
heliocentric distance of around 2 to 1 a.u., the outgassing
due to water ice rapidly gains dominance and thereafter
governs further brightness behavior. As a result, what ini-
tially seems to be an intrinsically large, bright, and highly
active comet far from the Sun, often turns out to be much
less so as it enters the inner solar system.
This was indeed the case with Comet PanSTARRS,
and predictions for the comets maximum brightness
were scaled back. Nevertheless, by the end of February
the comet was approaching 2nd magnitude as it swept
through conjunction with the Sun and entered the eve-
ning sky, hugging the western horizon as it moved north-
ward. This orientation made PanSTARRS a di cult object
to spot as it entered Northern Hemisphere skies.
Much like its brightness, early predictions for the
comets tail development ended up being highly exagger-
ated, especially when compared with computer simula-
tions that peppered internet sites. During the early stages
of the apparition, Comet PanSTARRS had an unusually
high dust-to-gas ratio. With vaporizing water ices being
the driving force for liberating dust particles from a
comets nucleus, the scarcity of this icy volatile curtailed
the unfurling of a spectacular tail as the comet drew
nearer the Sun. This also weighed heavily on the comets
post-perihelion appearance.
During early March Comet PanSTARRS slipped ever
deeper in evening twilight, making it increasingly di cult
for observers to judge its brightness. This was compounded
by a lack of suitable comparison stars nearby. The result
was a dramatic spread in the comets reported brightness,
which ranged as widely as magnitude 1 to +3 around the
time of perihelion passage on March 10th. Values reported
by experienced comet observers suggest that Comet
PanSTARRS peaked close to magnitude +1.7, making it a
fairly respectable comet, at least in terms of brightness.
At perihelion the comet passed just 15 from the Sun,
rendering it very di cult for northern observers to spot
in the strong evening twilight.
Viewing geometry kept PanSTARRS very low on the
western skyline for many days following perihelion, forc-
ing observers to search out locations with exceptionally
low horizons. Those who succeeded were often struck
by the comets small dimensions. Many reported that
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Throughout the rst week of April, Comet PanSTARRS passed
the large spiral galaxy M31 in Andromeda. Here its seen just
after closest approach on the morning of April 4th at 9:00 UT.
OBSERVING
Exploring the Solar System
54 July 2013 sky & telescope
The Moon July 2013
Librations
Schickard (crater) July 20
Kircher (crater) July 21
Malapert (crater) July 22
Boussingault (crater) July 23
Distances
Apogee July 7, 1
h
UT
252,581 miles diam. 29 24
Perigee July 21, 20
h
UT
222,702 miles diam. 33 20
NEW MOON
July 8, 7:14 UT
FIRST QUARTER
July 16, 3:18 UT
FULL MOON
July 22, 18:16 UT
LAST QUARTER
July 29, 17:43 UT
Phases
For key dates, yellow dots indicate
which part of the Moons limb is
tipped the most toward Earth by
libration under favorable illumination.
S&T: DENNIS DI CICCO
July
20
21
22
23
the intensely condensed coma spanned a mere 3, and
few could trace the relatively bright tail more than 1 or
so from the comets head. Compared to bright comets in
the past, PanSTARRSs visual appearance proved largely
disappointing. Several experienced observers said that it
looked like a large, bright comet seen in miniature.
Those who were imaging the comet tended to fare
better, and this advantage gained with time. The ability
to digitally combine multiple short exposures revealed
far more dramatic impressions of the comet than could
be grasped through visual means. Noted Austrian
astroimager Michael Jgers photograph on March 16th
was among the earliest to illustrate the great breadth of
PanSTARRSs dust tail, along with a drastically weaker
ion tail. His image made three days later proved even
more striking, showing two narrow tails preceding the
highly complex, broad, and strongly curving dust tail.
Computer enhancement revealed roughly a dozen indi-
vidual raylike striae, giving the comets tail an incredible
appearance like a partially opened Japanese fan.
Fading to about 3rd magnitude by March 20th,
PanSTARRS was still a naked-eye object very low in the
western sky. As the close of March approached and the
comet moved farther away from the Sun, an increasing
number of impressive images began appearing online. A
grand opportunity for photographers and visual observ-
ers alike came during the rst week of April as C/2011 L4
swept past the Andromeda Galaxy. This was also the time
that the comet was transitioning from being an evening
object to one better seen before dawn. Although the
comets brightness had fallen to about 4th or 5th magni-
tude, its extraordinarily broad dust tail spanned an arc
of no less than 110, even though its overall length didnt
exceed a stubby 3 to 4. Shortly after that, PanSTARRS
was lost to the unaided eye as it moved farther northward,
becoming a circumpolar object visible to mid-northern
observers using binoculars and telescopes.
As Comet PanSTARRS slips into history, eyes will
soon turn toward another visitor whose story is yet untold.
Comet ISONs upcoming apparition at the end of this year
remains a question mark. Will it be the object to fulll
the dreams of comet enthusiasts everywhere in the com-
ing months? Only t ime will tell.
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Imagers who planned ahead for the comets extremely low appa-
rition were rewarded with photos that revealed roughly a dozen
faint striae in its broad dust tail shortly after perihelion.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 55
ALL STARS

POINT TO

.

.

.
Lawrence Pacini, Jr. Observatory
Ukiah, California
March 2001. 3-meter
Observa-DOME with
matching cylinder base.
The observatory has
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56 July 2013 sky & telescope
OBSERVING
Deep-Sky Wonders
Many tales have been spun about the starry dragon
winding through the northern sky, including the follow-
ing myth of how he got there. In a great battle pitting the
Titans and their allies against the gods of Olympus, a fear-
some dragon set himself against Minerva, the goddess of
wisdom and favorite child of Jupiter. Undaunted, Minerva
seized the monster by its tail and whirled it up into the sky,
where it became twisted around the axis of the heavens.
Draco endlessly circles this axis as our world turns.
Lets start our tour of the celestial dragon with the
galaxy Messier 102, or should I say NGC 5866? Charles
Messiers collaborator Pierre Mchain reported M101 and
M102 as separate galaxies but later stated that theyre
one and the same. However, some researchers think that
Mchain was right the rst time. The description of M102
is a fairly good match for NGC 5866 and quite dierent
from the description of M101. Its plausible that Mchain
was in fact describing NGC 5866, and identifying M102
with this galaxy nicely lls out the Messier catalog. So Ill
enroll in that school of thought for the moment.
Draco, the Dragon
Some remarkable galaxies reside south of the Dragons body.
To track down M102,
look for 3rd-magnitude
Iota () Draconis, also
known as Edasich, which
shines with the rich golden glow
of evening sunshine. Through a nder-
scope youll see two 7th-magnitude stars 1 west-south-
west of Edasich, and dropping about 2 south from
there will place a 16-long curve of three 8th-magnitude
stars to the west of center in your eld of view. Draw an
imaginary line from the easternmost to the westernmost
star in the curve, and then continue for three times that
distance to reach M102.
M102 is a bright galaxy, easily seen in large binoculars
and small telescopes. In my 130-mm (5.1-inch) refractor
at 23, it sits between the tines of a small but distinctive
Y-shaped asterism. The -tall Y opens southeast, and its
brightest star is the 7th-magnitude topaz gem at its foot
(northwest). M102 appears oval with a faint star hovering
north of its northwestern tip. At 102 this pretty little gal-
axy covers roughly 3 1 and grows progressively brighter
toward the center. Its now adorned with a second star,
this one near the galaxys southwestern ank.
Through my 15-inch reector at 216, M102 is quite
Tiny, faint
NGC 5867
lurks south of
Messier 102,
also known as
NGC 5866.
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Above: This very deep image
of NGC 5907 shows what
appears to be detritus from
a galaxy collision long ago.
Right: Heres the authors
sketch of NGC 5907.
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M102
NGC 5867
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 57
Sue French Sue French welcomes your comments at scfrench@nycap.rr.com.
5777
DR A C O
M102
5870
5874
5879
5905
5907
5908
5963
5965
5969
5971
UGC 9570
5867

15
h
10
m
15
h
00
m
14
h
50
m
15
h
20
m
15
h
30
m
+57
+56
+55
+58
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6
5
4
7
8
9
10
Angular sizes and separations are from recent catalogs. Visually, an objects size is often smaller
than the cataloged value and varies according to the aperture and magnication of the viewing
instrument. Right ascension and declination are for equinox 2000.0.
Galaxies in Draco
Object Magnitude (v) Size RA Dec.
M102 9.9 6.4 2.9 15
h
06.5
m
55 46
NGC 5867 16.2 0.3 0.2 15
h
06.4
m
55 44
NGC 5907 10.3 12.6 1.4 15
h
15.9
m
56 20
NGC 5963 12.5 3.3 2.6 15
h
33.5
m
56 34
NGC 5965 11.7 5.2 0.7 15
h
34.0
m
56 41
NGC 5971 13.8 1.6 0.6 15
h
35.6
m
56 28
NGC 5969 14.4 0.4 0.4 15
h
34.9
m
56 27
NGC 5777 13.3 3.1 0.4 14
h
51.3
m
58 59
UGC 9570 15.2 0.9 0.9 14
h
51.6
m
58 57
striking. Its prole becomes a spindle thats somewhat
pointy at the tips and bulgy in the middle. The compara-
tively large spindle is engulfed in a faint 3 1
1/
3 halo,
which is best seen when slowly sweeping the scope across
it. The star o the southwestern ank seems to form a 1.4
isosceles triangle, pointing west-southwest, with two faint
stars except that the eastern one looks fuzzy. Boosting
the magnication to 247 conrms this suspicion. Check-
ing some references, I found that this nearly stellar spot is
the galaxy NGC 5867.
At 345 a very faint star sits at the spindles northwest-
ern point, and M102s most enchanting feature makes
an appearance a dusky thread following the long axis
of the spindles broad, central bulge. Amazingly, noted
observer and author Stephen OMeara has seen the slen-
der dust lane girdling this galaxy as a whisper of dark-
ness through his 4-inch refractor at 303. OMeara is in
the camp of those who say that NGC 5866 is not M102.
The sky surrounding M102 is notable for hosting a few
relatively bright at galaxies; that is, disk-shaped galax-
ies that appear very thin because theyre seen edge-on.
The nearest and brightest is NGC 5907, which dwells
1.4 east-northeast of M102. Returning to the arc of stars
that helped us nd M102, you can sweep from the middle
star through the easternmost star and continue for three
times that distance to reach NGC 5907.
Through my 130-mm scope at 23, NGC 5907 is a
readily visible streak elongated north-northwest to south-
southeast. At 117 the galaxy spans 9 and is brighter on
the eastern side of its long axis along the central 3 of its
length. This elongated core has a bright heart about 1 long.
Ive sketched each of the at galaxies with my 15-inch
scope at 216 for easy comparison. The sketch of NGC
5907 (shown on the facing page) shows the central 15 of
my eld of view. Note the galaxys small, subtle nucleus
and strange UFO-like prole. NGC 5907 is one of the
most alluring at galaxies Ive seen, and our next two
look much like smaller versions of it.
With such a long slim prole, NGC 5907 has won the
nicknames Splinter Galaxy and Knife-Edge Galaxy. Very
deep images of NGC 5907 are quite stunning. Graceful
loops of tidal debris enwrap the galaxy, like a snapshot of
a pirouetting dancer swirling diaphanous scarves around
her svelte form. A recent study (Jianling Wang et. al,
February 13, 2012) published in Astronomy & Astrophys-
ics indicates that these wispy streamers of stars may be
lingering relics of the collision and merger of two similar-
sized galaxies 8 to 9 billion years ago.
NGC 5907 and M102 are 50 million light-years distant,
making them near neighbors of our Milky Way Galaxy
and the brightest members of our sky tour.
Placing NGC 5907 in a low-power eld of view and
pushing your telescope 2 east will take you to the gal-
axy pair NGC 5963 and NGC
5965. NGC 5963 is usually eas-
ier to spot, because most of its
light is concentrated in its core.
It shows up at 63 through my
130-mm refractor, with a faint
star south-southeast of center
near the galaxys edge. Just 9 to
the north-northeast, NGC 5965
is our second-brightest at gal-
axy. It appears about 3 long,
tipped northeast, with an elongated core sprouting faint
wings. At 102 NGC 5963 looks oval and wears a faint
fringe. Its about 1 long and leans in the same direction
as its neighbor.
The sketch of NGC 5963 and NGC 5965 also shows the
central 15 of the eld of view through my 15-inch reec-
OBSERVING
Deep-Sky Wonders
58 July 2013 sky & telescope
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NGC 5965
NGC 5963
NGC 5969
NGC 5971
tor. Much more of NGC 5963s ghostly
halo is discernible through this scope.
This visual halo consists of very loosely
wound spiral arms.
My 130-mm scope at 102 holds two addi-
tional galaxies in its eld of view, which rest 16
southeast of their brighter neighbors. NGC 5971
is a very, very faint oval thats roughly
1/
3 long, running
southeast to northwest. NGC 5969 is an extremely faint,
very small spot that I can only see with averted vision. The
galaxies inhabit a busy star eld, and a chart showing very
faint stars was necessary for pinpointing them.
Our nal at galaxy is NGC 5777, located 4.3 west
of Edasich and only 19 south of a 5.5-magnitude yellow-
orange star. My 130-mm refractor at 102 reveals a very
faint, 2-long streak that runs southeast to northwest
and is best seen with averted vision. NGC 5777 is visible
through my 10-inch reector at 43, but 115 lengthens
the galaxy to 2 and discloses a brighter elongated core.
Through my 15-inch reector at 216, NGC 5777 grows
a starlike nucleus, and the galaxys core bulges out very
slightly from the northeastern ank, as shown in the
sketch above. A 14.5-magnitude star nudges the eastern
Above: Use this image to star-hop from the medium-bright
galaxies NGC 5963 and 5965 to faint NGC 5971 and
very faint NGC 5969. Right: The authors sketch of
NGC 5777 and UGC 9570 is at twice the scale of her
sketch of NGC 5963 and 5965.
side of the galaxys northern tip. A second galaxy shares
the eld of view, but I can only see the core and even
that requires averted vision. This little galaxy is the face-
on, dwarf spiral UGC 9570. NGC 5777 and its companion
are about 100 million light-years away from us.
Although the drawing of NGC 5777 and UGC 9570 was
done at the same telescopic magnication as the previous
sketches, this one only shows the central 7 of my eld
of view half that of the other two sketches. I draw on
unlined, 5 8-inch index cards. When I tried to cram 15
of sky onto the cards 4-inch circle, I found it di cult to
pencil in details with the galaxy so small.
Draco keeps interesting company as he whirls around
the axis of the sky, so be sure to visit his galaxy-spattered
realm this summer.
NGC 5965
NGC 5963
UGC 9570
NGC 5777
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 59

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60 July 2013 sky & telescope
Steve Gottlieb
Going Deep
NGC 6946 is the most pro-
ductive supernova factory of the past century. Since the
last Milky Way supernova explosion 140 years ago, NGC
6946 has churned out nine supernovae in 1917, 1939,
1948, 1968, 1969, 1980, 2002, 2004, and 2008 earning
it the nickname Firecracker Galaxy. Hyperactive star
formation runs rampant throughout the galaxy, from
an inner nuclear starburst region to the outer disk, even
producing an extraordinary super-star cluster (SSC) thats
visible in large amateur scopes.
The spiral galaxy
Unraveling NGC 6946
This far-northern galaxys spiral arms are unusually easy to resolve.
1
2
At declination +60, NGC 6946 lies far enough north to
be circumpolar for most of the United States. Its espe-
cially well placed during the summer and autumn for
northern observers to unravel its spiral arms.
NGC 6946 shines at magnitude 8.8 in a glittering
star eld at the border of Cygnus and Cepheus, about 2
southwest of 3.4-magnitude Eta () Cephei. It shares a
low-power eld with the 8th-magnitude open cluster NGC
6939. But at a distance of 15 to 20 million light years, the
galaxy is roughly 4,000 times farther than its eyepiece
neighbor. This odd couple is fairly easy to spot in my
1550 binoculars. Both objects appear similar in size,
though NGC 6939 displays a higher surface brightness.
Due to its location just 11 from the galactic plane,
we view NGC 6946 through a veil of Milky Way dust.
But because this late Hubble-type Scd spiral is relatively
nearby and oriented nearly face-on to our line of sight,
its spiral arms are unusually easy to resolve. In the fall
of 1850, Irish astronomer William Parsons (Third Earl
of Rosse) turned his 72-inch speculum-metal reector
toward NGC 6946 and found a new spiral, very ne
but faint; 3 branches, of which two terminate in knots,
a fourth branch north preceding very doubtful. Later
observations conrmed the fourth arm, and a sketch by
observing assistant Bindon Stoney (shown at left) captures
the asymmetric arm structure as well as the two knots.
Under dark skies, an 8-inch telescope should reveal the
brightest arm, and a 12- to 14-inch should show the overall
spiral structure. In the early 1980s, I was mesmerized
when my 13-inch displayed the two prominent arms curl-
ing around the east side as well as a diuse western arm.
Through my 18-inch Dobsonian,
the irregular halo of NGC 6946 spans
8 and grows brighter to a 1.5 central
region. The nucleus, however, is just
a very small, weak enhancement,
pierced by a faint starlike point. The
dominant arm is attached at the
north side of the core and unfurls
counterclockwise to the east, passing
just south of a 13.5-magnitude star
before terminating at a 10 H II knot
(labeled 1 on the photograph above).

6946
6939
C E P HE US
C Y GNUS
21
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20
m
+60
21
h
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m
20
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40
m
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+62
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Lord Rosses assistant Bindon Stoney sketched NGC 6946 as
seen in the 72-inch Leviathan of Parsonstown, Ireland. The knots
at the ends of the spiral arms are labeled as in the photograph.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 61
The author resolved the knots labeled 1 and 2 in his 18-inch
scope, knots 35 in his 24-inch, and the remaining three knots
in Texan amateur Jimi Lowreys 48-inch.
8
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A side branch splits o on the northeast side and curls
more tightly south, forming an inner arm halfway to the
center.
A third, fainter arm emerges from the glow on the
western side of the core and shoots sharply to the north.
The fourth, southern arm never cleanly separates from
the central glow, but a dip in brightness denes its outer
edge as it sweeps west.
A number of eld stars are sprinkled across the face of
the galaxy, including an 11.5-magnitude luminary at the
southern edge of the halo. A 20 pair of 13th-magnitude
stars lies 2.4 southwest of the nucleus. Just 1.5 northwest
of this pair I picked up a soft, 15 knot (labeled 2) that
could easily be missed. Studies reveal that this small-
seeming patch is actually a huge stellar and gas complex
spanning 2,000 light-years and containing more than a
dozen tightly packed clusters, including a million-solar-
mass SSC. At an age of only 1015 million years, this
supercluster is thought to be an early evolutionary stage
in the formation of a classical globular star cluster.
The arms take on a clumpy texture in my 24-inch
Dobsonian as more star- forming regions near the core
begin to resolve. These include two slightly brighter
regions (labeled 3 and 4) along the main northern arm
and an elongated enhancement at the southern tip of the
inner eastern arm (5). Through Jimi Lowreys 48-inch
in western Texas, the view approaches the photographic
appearance, with additional isolated knots in the outer
halo, including 6 on the west side, 7 on the northwest
end, and 8 at the north edge.
Spiral arms are challenging, low-contrast features and
require the darkest possible skies, patience, and careful
study. For the best view of this galaxys overall structure,
experiment with low to medium power (exit pupils from
2.5 to 4 mm). But to capture an H II region or the SSC,
youll need to increase the magnication and use the
labeled image as a guide.
Steve Gottlieb observes deep-sky objects from sites near his
California home and around the world.
62 July 2013 sky & telescope
in the world
of amateur CCD imaging than SBIG, short for Santa
Barbara Instrument Group. Founded by amateur astrono-
mers in the late 1980s, the company built its reputa-
tion on a succession of pioneering CCD autoguiders
and astronomical cameras tailor-made for amateurs. A
quarter century later SBIGs core market still remains the
amateur community, helping explain why theres been
lots of reader interest surrounding the launch of SBIGs
newest line of CCD cameras. Dubbed the STT Series, the
completely redesigned cameras include a host of features
requested by astrophotographers. Among them are USB
2.0 and Ethernet computer connectivity, an internal
image buer, fast image downloads, advanced thermo-
electric cooling, and modular integration with SBIGs new
lter wheels and autoguiding systems.
For this review I borrowed an early production model
of the STT-8300 from the manufacturer. It features
No name is better known
New STT-8300 Camera
A redesign brings state-of-the-art features to SBIGs new STT line of astronomical cameras.
S & T Test Report Dennis di Cicco
The STT-8300s 5.4-micron pixels are well matched to short-
focus instruments. This view of the Orion Nebula was shot with
an 8-inch f/3 scope having a focal length of only 600 mm.
SBIG STT-8300
CCD Camera
U.S. price: starting at $3,695.00
sbig.com
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR; IMAGE PROCESSING BY S&T: SEAN WALKER
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 63
WHAT WE LIKE:
Updated STT design,
including mechanical,
electronic, and software
improvements
Modular integration with
new lter wheels and
autoguiding systems
WHAT WE DONT LIKE:
Special care needed to
ensure reliable connec-
tion of the power supply
to the camera (see text
for details)
The STT-8300 and its self-guiding, eight-position lter wheel are
operated by a single computer connection (either USB 2.0 or Eth-
ernet). The scope port is for a conventional autoguiding cable.
With the 8-inch f/3 scope, the STT-8300 has an image scale of
1.85 arcseconds per pixel and a eld covering 1.7 x 1.3, ideal for
imaging the galaxy pair M81 (bottom) and M82 in Ursa Major.
Kodaks KAF-8300 CCD, which is one of most popular
chips used by todays amateurs. Much of the chips allure
comes from its large array of 8.3 million 5.4-micron-
square pixels. The relatively small pixels are well matched
to short-focus telescopes, and they even work well with
conventional camera lenses. SBIG oers a variety of pack-
age deals for the STT-8300. The one I tested includes the
self-guiding FW8G-STT lter wheel, a set of eight 36-mm
Baader lters (for LRGB and narrowband imaging), and a
super-strong Pelican-Storm storage case. Priced at $5,985,
this package costs about $1,000 less than if the pieces
were purchase individually.
The camera and lter wheel weigh about 5 pounds
(2.4 kg). Although this is a lot heavier than, say, a DSLR
camera, it is well within the limits of most focusers sup-
plied on modern telescopes made for imaging. I did most
of my sky shooting with the STT-8300 attached to the
O cina Stellare Veloce RH200 astrograph that I reviewed
in last Aprils issue, page 60 (youll nd additional images
made with the STT-8300 there). I also tested the camera
with several medium-format camera lenses tted to the
STT-8300 with a lens adapter that I made myself. SBIG
sells a lens adapter for Canon EOS lenses, but it only
works with the STT-8300 camera body alone or with the
standard FW8-STT lter wheel. The Canon lenses do not
have su cient back focus to work with the added thick-
ness of the self-guiding lter wheel I tested.
The self-guiding lter wheel is a new addition to
SBIGs line of products. Shown in the accompanying
photos, it has a small CCD camera mounted on an adjust-
able pick-o assembly placed ahead of the lters. As such,
light from guide stars is not attenuated by the lters
before reaching the guiding CCD. The pick-o mirror
can be moved perpendicular to the telescopes optical axis
to avoid vignetting the STT-8300s main imaging chip
depending on the focal ratio of the telescopes converg-
ing light beam. I tested the system with camera lenses as
fast as f/2, and it worked very nicely with the f/3 RH200
astrograph. Setting the pick-o mirrors position and
focusing the guiding camera take a few minutes under
a dark sky, and any extra time needed to get everything
carefully adjusted is time well spent, since the only reason
to change the guiders position or focus is if you use dif-
ferent telescopes or have lters of dierent thicknesses.
Software and Connectivity
SBIG ships its cameras with printed manuals and the
latest version of its venerable camera-control and image-
processing program CCDOps. Versions of the software
are available for Windows 2000 and above (including 32-
and 64-bit systems) and Mac OS X 10.5 and above. Theres
even a rudimentary version for LINUX, which the com-
pany states is for the adventurous. SBIG also provides a
nice program for installing and updating camera drivers
on your computer. The documentation for these programs
64 July 2013 sky & telescope
S&T Test Report
is very clearly written, making it easy for those timid
about computers to get everything working properly.
Although the user interface for CCDOps is starting
to show its age, the program is full-featured and very
robust. Ive used various versions of it over the years with
remarkable success, having never lost a single image to a
software glitch. While I used the latest version for some
of my STT-8300 tests, I did most of my image acquisition
and processing with Diraction Limiteds MaxIm DL,
but only after I updated that software to the latest version
(5.23) to make it compatible with the new SBIG camera.
And for the record, I also had to update Software Bisques
TheSkyX Profesional Edition to version 10.2.0 (build 6409)
so its camera functions would work with the STT-8300.
I tested the STT-8300 with a variety of computer
connections. At the telescope, I had a USB 2.0 cable run
directly between the camera and my laptop computer.
Most of my imaging, however, was done from a remote
desktop computer in my house several hundred feet away
from the telescope. I did this with a network USB hub
a now-discontinued Belkin product that plugs into any
Ethernet port on my home network. Located next to the
The lter wheel
attaches to the STT-
8300 after removing
the cameras front
cover. A new design
ensures that lters
precisely return to
the same position
each time they are
moved, which is crit-
ical for at-elding
images when dust
is on the lters. The
self-guiding mecha-
nism visible at lower
right is described in
the text.
Back-to-back
45-second expo-
sures capture the
record-breaking
asteroid 2012 DA
14

as it whizzed by
Earth last Febru-
ary 15th. The gaps
between exposures
are amplied by the
slow computer con-
nection described
in the text.
telescope, this hub provides USB ports without exceeding
the distance limitations of standard USB cables. Except
for being slower than a direct USB 2.0 connection, the
Belkin hub worked ne with the STT-8300.
I also tried the cameras Ethernet connection by plug-
ging the camera directly into my home network with the
same type of cable used to connect computers to the net-
work. Initially I had some trouble with this arrangement,
which I thought was due to my network rewalls. But it
turned out that, unlike computers, the cameras Ethernet
connection has to be made before the camera is powered
up in order for the system to be properly assigned a net-
work IP address.
The Ethernet connection oers some interesting pos-
sibilities. First, any computer on the network can make a
connection to the camera, regardless of distance between
them, and you can operate the camera with appropriate
software installed on the computer (CCDOps or MaxIm
DL, for example), and this goes for computers using a
wireless connection to the network. But the Ethernet con-
nection also allows the camera to be controlled through
its own built-in web server that you access by simply
typing the cameras IP address into the search eld of any
web browser even a browser on a smartphone! This
eliminates the need for camera-control software on your
computer or smartphone; you just need a web browser.
Although you can operate the STT-8300s cooler, lter
wheel, and exposure settings via the cameras webpage,
the setup is not optimized for advanced imaging. For
example, you cant run an automated sequence of ltered
exposures. Nevertheless, the web access proved more use-
ful than I initially anticipated. As mentioned earlier, I did
most of my imaging with the camera run remotely from
a computer in my house. But there were times I needed to
shoot exposures at the telescope when focusing or trying
to center a target on the CCD. It was super easy to do this
using the web browser on my smartphone. As with any
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 65
new tool, once you have it youll likely think of interesting
ways to use it.
Notes from the Field
Ive only mentioned some of the STT-8300s specica-
tions, since they are all available on SBIGs website (www.
sbig.com). You can also download all the user manuals
for free from the website. After several months of test-
ing the camera, I can comfortably say that it lived up to
my expectations based on the companys literature. One
aspect of the camera, however, was di cult for me to test
the cooling. SBIG states that the STT-8300s two-stage
thermoelectric cooler can drop the CCDs temperature
as much as 55C below the ambient air temperature (and
the camera is ready-made for water-assisted cooling if you
need more). I chose to run the CCD at 25C as a good
balance between the KAF-8300s imaging performance
and a temperature I could reach even on warm nights.
Nevertheless, there werent any warm nights during our
recent New England winter. Indeed, on most nights the
STT-8300 maintained its 25C setting with the cooler
running at less than 15% of its capacity.
As with other SBIG gear Ive used in the past, the STT-
8300 proved to be very robust and reliable. Occasionally I
would get a lter wheel error when initially connecting
to the camera using MaxIm DL on my remote computer.
I never isolated the problem, but it was likely due to the
unusual way I set up my long-distance USB connection
(described earlier). Regardless, simply making a second
attempt to connect to the camera always worked.
In the grand scheme of things, the only quibble I have
with the STT-8300 sounds rather minor, but its worth
mentioning. SBIG uses a power connector with a locking
collar that prevents the power cable from being accidently
pulled out of the camera. Thats a very good thing. But if
you dont tighten the locking collar down snugly (some-
thing thats hard to do in the cold, especially if you have
fat ngers like me), its possible to wiggle the power cable
and break the connection, causing an electronic reset of
the camera. Thats a bad thing. Once aware of this, I used
needle-nose pliers to make sure the locking collar was
tightened, and this eliminated the problem for good.
In many respects, the STT-8300 is the best SBIG cam-
era I have ever used. Coupled with its self-guiding lter
wheel, its a powerful platform ideally suited for imaging
with typical setups used by todays astrophotographers.
The company is clearly continuing its well-deserved repu-
tation of serving the amateur community.
Senior editor Dennis di Cicco still covets his SBIG ST-4
autoguider/camera that he reviewed in the September 1990
issue, page 250.
The STT-8300 proved highly versatile for the authors imaging projects, including a conventional color view (made with red, green, and blue
lters) of the galaxy M101 (upper left), and a narrowband image (using H-alpha, O III, and S II lters) of the Crab Nebula (lower left). The
narrowband image at right, totaling 25 hours of exposure with the 8-inch f/3 scope, captured the exceedingly faint lamentary structure of
PKS 0646+06 in Monoceros. Listed as a supernova remnant, the virtually unknown object is 4 east-northeast of the Rosette Nebula.
66 July 2013 sky & telescope
Gary Seronik
Telescope Workshop
and Ill say it again: view-
ing the night sky in a telescope youve crafted with your
own hands is the most rewarding experience in all ama-
teur astronomy. Perhaps youve long suspected this but
have held o taking the telescope-making plunge because
it all seems so daunting. And you know what? It denitely
can be. But with the right approach, making a telescope is
as fun as it is rewarding. What follows is my simple advice
for getting started as an amateur telescope maker (ATM).
Buy, dont build. Okay, that sounds like ATM heresy,
but one of the biggest mistakes rst-timers make is rush-
ing a project just to have a telescope. Impatience encour-
ages shortcuts and sloppiness two qualities that rarely
lead to satisfactory results. So its not a bad idea to buy
your rst scope, and then make one. Not only will owning
one give you have a better idea about how telescopes work,
but youll be under less pressure to make one quickly.
Assemble rst. Its much easier to get to know the ins
and outs of telescope building if you dont tackle every
aspect of the project with your rst attempt. Buying a
ready-made mirror and other components (focuser, mir-
ror cells, tube, etc.) will smooth the bumps on the way up
the learning curve. Of course, the more you build your-
self, the greater the satisfaction. But even the assemble-
only route is so rewarding that some telescope makers
never wade deeper into the ATMing waters.
Ive said it before
Getting Started
Heres some practical advice to ease your entry into the world of ATMing.
Get real. Be realistic about the project you tackle.
Sure, a 16-inch Dobsonian is a killer deep-sky machine,
but making and using one takes considerable eort. Is
it really within a rst-timers capabilities? Perhaps. But
dont set the bar too high. An 8-inch is a great place to
start since it represents an ideal balance between utility
and ease of construction. After building a scope this size,
youll be in a better position to take on a bigger project.
Avoid the internet. Dont get me wrong, I love the
abundant wealth of knowledge found online. But when
it comes to making your rst telescope, the information
not only has to be accurate, but it also has to arrive in the
right order to be useful. For that reason, a good book that
takes you through the whole process from start to nish
is generally a much better guide than the random results
that a Google search will turn up.
Buddy up! Books and online resources can oer plenty
of great information, but theres nothing like being at the
elbow of someone engaged in making a telescope. Seeing
how its done and knowing how its done are often two
very dierent things. Seek out your local astronomy club.
Virtually every group has a few keen ATMs who will be
more than happy to assist and oer pointers.
Grind your own mirror. This is the ultimate in tele-
scope making. It oers the most daunting challenges
and the greatest rewards. Should you attempt it for your
rst telescope project? Notwithstanding my preceding
advice, Id say go for it. Just be aware that it will take more
time, patience, and skill, than the rest of the scope. Some
people regard mirror making as merely a means to an
end, and they question the wisdom of devoting the time
and eort required to produce a ne optic. But this line
of reasoning largely misses the point. You might as well
ask why its worth the bother to go outside and look at the
sky when you could stay indoors and view astrophotos on
your computer. Making a telescope mirror is an enjoyable
and deeply satisfying pursuit on its own. That the result
is also the heart of a telescope that you can enjoy for your
entire life, well, thats just a very handsome bonus!
Contributing editor Gary Seronik is an experienced telescope
maker. Some of his creations (including his 6-inch f/9) are
featured on his website, www.garyseronik.com.
The authors 6-inch
f/9 reector, which
he built more than 20
years ago, is pictured
waiting for dark-
ness at the annual
Mount Kobau Star
Party. Although he
had made several
telescopes previously,
this reector features
the rst mirror he
ground. It remains
one of his most-
cherished telescop es.
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68 July 2013 sky & telescope
Imaging Tips
Shooting
with
If youve been admiring the glori-
ous images of galaxies, nebulae,
comets, and landscape-skyscape pairings produced in
recent years, no doubt youve noticed that more and more
of the photos have been captured with a modied digital
single-lens reex (DSLR) camera. Regular DSLRs have
taken over the photography world, so what is wrong with
the stock models that inspire some users to perform major
surgery on a perfectly good camera?
To answer this question, lets examine the main purpose
of these cameras. DSLRs are designed to mimic the human
eyes response to light, like their analog predecessor, color
lm. Our eyes are sensitive to a narrow region of the elec-
tromagnetic spectrum, from violet to deep red. DSLRs are
designed to mimic this response to produce an image that
closely reproduces what we see in everyday life.
But the CMOS detectors used in these cameras are sensi-
tive to a much wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum
than is visible to the human eye, from ultraviolet (UV) to
infrared (IR) wavelengths. If this information were included
in a typical snapshot, the image would look unnatural
foliage appears much brighter in infrared light than in
visible wavelengths, and that would then distort the color
balance of the resulting image. To compensate for this dif-
ference, camera manufacturers use glass lters placed just
over the detector that block this unwanted light, in order to
better match the human eyes color response.
The lters in DSLR cameras are excellent for produc-
ing photographs of people, places, and other earthbound
subjects, but one problem quickly arises when using
these cameras for astrophotography. Many astronomical
objects emit at wavelengths that are blocked by these stock
lters. In particular, vast clouds of ionized hydrogen gas
uoresce in the deep red region of the spectrum at the
hydrogen-alpha (H) wavelength of 656.3 nanometers. In
all but one specialized DSLR model, the light at the wave-
length of H light is cut to less than 20% by the internal
lter, rendering invisible all but the brightest nebulae that
permeate our galaxy in photographs.
To circumvent this issue, mechanically inclined ama-
teurs often remove a cameras internal lter or replace it
with one better suited for astronomy. This greatly expands
sensitivity to H and other wavelengths. Directions for
replacing your cameras lters yourself can be found
online, though this is not something you should attempt
yourself if youre inexperienced with microelectronics. It
only takes one slip or static charge to completely destroy
a DSLR camera! Also be aware that opening your camera
body voids your factory warranty. For those who would
rather not take a chance themselves, a few enterprising
individuals (including myself) perform this service with
a variety of options that can greatly increase the versatility
of your DSLR camera. Lets take a closer look at what each
of these options can oer.
Choosing Your Modication
There are three main options to consider when modifying
your DSLR for astrophotography. The rst is to completely
remove the internal blocking lter consisting of a thin
pane of glass mounted in front of the imaging chip. But
while this opens up the cameras full range of spectral
sensitivity, it also creates a few problems.
The lters glass increases the focal point of a con-
verging light beam by
1/
3 the thickness of the glass used.
Hap Griffin
DSLR Cameras
Expanding the spectral response of your camera opens up many new imaging opportunities.
Modi ied
f
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 69
Removing the lter completely changes the eective
optical distance between a lens and the sensor, which can
prevent some camera lenses from focusing on distant
subjects. Additionally, the cameras autofocus mecha-
nisms and its optical viewnder are no longer calibrated
to the CMOS detectors focal point.
For a camera dedicated solely to astronomical photog-
raphy through a telescope, this isnt a problem tele-
scopes focus well past the innity point, and critical focus
on astronomical subjects is performed using live-focus
mode, or with the aid of an external computer and spe-
As digital single-lens reex cameras (DSLRs) have overtaken the photo-
graphic world, tinkering with their performance has also become increas-
ingly popular. Author Hap Gri n demonstrates how replacing the internal
lter over your DSLRs sensor can increase your cameras sensitivity to
wavelengths important in astronomy, particularly deep-red light where
ionized hydrogen gas uoresces. A modied DSLR is able to record much
fainter reddish laments in nebulae such as Eta Carina (below) than are
detectable using a stock camera (left).
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70 July 2013 sky & telescope
Imaging Tips
cialized software. But without any IR blocking, infrared
light will throw out the color balance of your photos. Addi-
tionally, refractive optics cause infrared wavelengths to
focus at a slightly dierent point than visible light, mak-
ing star images appear bloated due to the out-of-focus IR
view. Every telescope, whether its a Newtonian reector,
Schmidt-Cassegrain, or Ritchey-Chrtien, requires addi-
tional corrective optics to produce pinpoint star images
across a large detector, so none is completely immune to
this problem. An additional lter must then be used in
the optical path to block this IR light but still allow the
important H wavelength to pass.
A second solution is to replace the cameras stock lter
with one of clear glass of the same thickness, allowing all
wavelengths to come to focus. This retains the cameras
autofocus capabilities and allows IR and UV light to be
recorded along with visible light and H. Theres still the
drawback of unnatural color response in daylight photog-
raphy, as well as unfocused IR light bloating star images.
These problems can be addressed using an additional
lter in the optical path.
A third option is to replace the cameras internal lter
with one that still blocks UV and IR light, yet allows the
light from H to be recorded virtually unimpeded. This
allows you to still use all of your camera lenses and take
daytime imagery. Although your color balance will be
slightly o, you can easily x this by recording a cus-
tom white balance setting in your camera. Instructions
on how to accomplish this are included in every DSLR
camera manual. To use a custom white balance, you must
use the camera in one of its program or manual modes.
Alternatively, an external color-correction lens lter such
as the X-Nite CC1 available from MaxMax (www.maxmax.
com), or the Astronomik OWB (Original White Balance)
clip-in lter (www.astronomik.com), will allow the camera
to be used in the fully automatic mode, just as it was
before modication.
Shooting with a Full-Spectrum Camera
As mentioned previously, a modied camera can be
more versatile than your stock camera. A full-spectrum
modied camera (when the internal lter is replaced with
The heart of every DSLR
camera is its CMOS imag-
ing sensor; shown here
is the array from a Canon
EOS T2i. All manufac-
turers install a blocking
lter directly in front of
this chip to eliminate
unwanted wavelengths
that are mostly beyond the
range of human vision.
Removing the blocking
lter within your DSLR
camera requires disas-
sembling the entire body,
which also voids any war-
ranty. Imagers who desire
greater sensitivity but are
not mechanically inclined
can send their cameras
to a specialist such as the
author, who can replace
the internal lter with a
selection of alternatives.
Below: Cameras with a full-spectrum modication can image
in a variety of dierent wavelengths with the addition of vari-
ous replaceable lters used in the optical path. This photo
shows the distorted colors of a typical earthly scene when
photographed with a modied Canon EOS 40D and a Massa
720-nanometer IR-pass lter in front of the lens.
The author
used the same
modied EOS
40D camera
with the
addition of an
Astronomik
OWB clip-in
lter to cap-
ture accurate
colors of the
launch of
the SpaceX
Dragon supply
module on
its way to the
International
Space Station
last March.
H
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HAP GRIFFIN (2)
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 71
clear glass) is suitable for astronomical imaging, infrared
photography, and regular daylight photography with the
addition of various removable lters to attenuate the cam-
eras spectral response.
I often use a Canon EOS 40D DSLR with a fused-
silica Astrodon full-spectrum modication for all of my
daylight photography, including rocket launches at Ken-
nedy Space Center. To achieve a natural color balance in
daylight with this modication, I also use the Astronomik
OWB clip-in lter. I can then use the same camera for
astrophotography with the addition of a slightly dierent
Astronomik clip-in lter. It should be noted that this lter
series is only available for Canon cameras, and Canon
EF-S lenses will not work using the clip-in system.
Specialized Imaging
Since the spectral response of a full-spectrum modied
DSLR is similar to that of a CCD camera, you can also use
the camera for even more specialized photography, includ-
ing narrowband imaging or IR photography. As opposed
to full-color photography, narrowband, IR, and UV photog-
raphy use special lters to isolate particular regions of
the spectrum that are of interest. Infrared photography
reveals the natural world around us in a wavelength range
completely invisible to the human eye, which can be quite
beautiful and artistic. UV photography also has special-
ized uses, particularly for forensic investigators.
In astrophotography, the narrow spectral region
where H predominates is also mostly free of light
pollution from manmade sources and even moonlight,
allowing you to shoot from urban locations and when a
bright Moon washes out most other deep-sky subjects.
Astronomik also oers a series of clip-in Canon lters
that isolate many regions of the spectrum to take advan-
tage of all these opportunities.
When imaging through these narrow specialized
lters, be aware that your DSLR sensor uses an array of
red, green, and blue lters (known as a Bayer matrix), with
each pixel being sensitive to only one of these primary
colors. This divides your detector into an array with 25%
of the pixels having a red lter, 50% green, and 25% blue;
the cameras electronics interpolate this information to
create your color image. Therefore, light through an H
lter will only register on the red pixels. Similarly, UV-
pass lters used with your modied DSLR will record UV
light on the blue pixels. Pixels of other colors will show
only noise, so in processing youll need to use only the per-
tinent color pixels for the narrowband lter in use. Most
dedicated astronomical processing software for DSLR
astrophotography, such as ImagesPlus (www.mlunsold.
com) and MaxIm DL (www.cyanogen.com), has the ability
to isolate these channels before color conversion.
Just as digital SLRs have revolutionized photography,
modifying your camera greatly expands the possibilities
of subject matter. And while there is some risk involved,
more and more imagers are exploring the enhanced capa-
bilities this change oers. The usefulness and versatility
of this high-quality tool to image the heavens and the
world around us continues to grow.
Visit Hap Gri ns website at www.imaginginnity
.com for a complete list of DSLR modication services.
The author
captured sub-
tle wisps of the
Veil Nebula,
NGC 6992,
using a modi-
ed Canon
EOS 40D with
a Baader UV/
IR blocking
lter installed
directly in front
of the CMOS
detector.
72 July 2013 sky & telescope
Sean Walker
Gallery
SHIMMER AND STREAK
Shannon Bileski
A bright bolide lights up the southeastern sky
over Lake Winnipeg during an auroral display.
Details: Nikon D800 DSLR camera with 24-70mm
lens at f/3.2. Single 8-second exposure recorded at
ISO 800.
Gallery showcases the nest astronomical images submitted to us by our readers. Send your very best shots to gallery@
SkyandTelescope.com. We pay $50 for each published photo. See SkyandTelescope.com/aboutsky/guidelines.
SkyandTelescope.com July 2013 73
MEDUSA NEBULA
Terry Hancock & Fred Hermann
Abell 21 is an old planetary nebula roughly
1,500 light-years away in Gemini.
Details: Astro-Tech AT12RC Ritchey-Chrtien
telescope equipped with QSI 683 and QHY9M
CCD cameras. Total exposure was 32 hours
through color and narrowband lters.
CLOUDS OF POLARIS
John Davis
This deep image reveals the extremely faint
cirrus-like clouds of galactic nebulosity that
permeate most supposedly empty regions
of the Milky Way.
Details: Takahashi FSQ-106EDX astrograph
with SBIG STL-11000M CCD camera. Total
exposure was 3 hours through color lters.
THE SNOWMAN NEBULA
Mel Martin
Sharpless 2-302 in Puppis is a faint mix
of reddish emission nebulosity with a
small, bluish reection component along
its northern edge.
Details: Starizona Hyperion 12 -inch astro-
graph with SBIG STL-11000M CCD camera.
Total exposure was 10 hours through Astrodon
color lters.
CEPHEUS DUST
Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn & Paul Morteld
Another constellation saturated with faint dust is
Cepheus. The orangish glow at center left is known as
LBN 552. It consists of dust and gas illuminated from
within by embryonic stars that have yet to burst forth
from their dusty cocoon.
Details: RCOS 16-inch Ritchey-Chrtien reector with an
Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera. Total exposure was 24
hours through color lters.
Gallery
74 July 2013 sky & telescope
Visit SkyandTelescope.com
/gallery for more of our
readers astrophotos.
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80 July 2013 sky & telescope
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Inside This Issue
CALIFORNIA
Oceanside Photo & Telescope (Page 17, 55)
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AG Optical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
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Astrodon Imaging. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
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Explore Scientic - Bresser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Finger Lakes Instrumentation, LLC . . . . . . . 35
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International Dark-Sky Association . . . . . . . 78
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Swinburne Univ. Of Technology. . . . . . . . . . 13
Takahashi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
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Vixen Optics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Willmann-Bell, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Woodland Hills Telescopes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
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Billions of Planets
A leading researcher answers
the most pressing questions about
planets around other stars.
Social Astronomy
Social media is quickly changing
the way society interacts, a shift that
is transforming the astronomical
community.
Decoding the Stars
Three women astronomers
Harvard computers paid as little as
25 cents an hour laid the founda-
tion for modern stellar astrophysics.
Amateur Imaging
Milestone
An Australian astrophotographer
has imaged the disk that surrounds
the star Beta Pictoris.
82 July 2013 sky & telescope
Focal Point Howard J. Brewington
In 1961, at age 9, my parents gave me
a 1.5-inch Sears refractor for Christmas.
I didnt realize that this gift made me an
amateur astronomer; I just knew it was a
great deal of fun pointing my little scope
at the night sky. I recall gasping as the
craters of the Moon came into focus and
thought Galileo could not have been more
surprised. Although I spent many hours
observing, it was all done in fun and on a
schedule dictated by my pleasure.
As an adult, in 1987, I became bored
with general stargazing and decided to
hunt comets. Looking for comets can be
done at ones leisure, but the most suc-
cessful hunters go out as often as pos-
sible. I spent as many as 8 hours per night
at the eyepiece. Then, after a few hours
of sleep, I would head to my full-time job.
The double-edged knife of success soon
pulled me deeply into this dog-eat-dog
world, as these eeting visitors found
their way into my ever-vigilant eyepiece.
The comet bounty oered by the IAUs
Edgar Wilson Award enticed me into dou-
bling my eorts, while I drifted farther
and farther away from my childhood roots
of doing astronomy just for fun. I hon-
estly felt relieved when a turn of events
caused me to retire my comet-hunting
scope in 1999.
In 2002 I became an operator of the
2.5-meter telescope for the Sloan Digital
Sky Survey at Apache Point Observatory
in Sunspot, New Mexico. I had always
believed the old proverb, Choose a job
you love, and you will never have to work
a day in your life. Although I love my
work, a job is still a job. Understand-
ably, project management places great
emphasis on e cient data collection. So
those carefree nights of standing in the
backyard as a child with my little refractor
seem more than a lifetime ago.
Yet I recently learned that one of my
comets, 154P/Brewington, is returning
and is predicted to reach 9th magnitude
in late November 2013. Im very excited!
As I dust o the discovery instrument in
preparation, I feel much like that 9-year-
old boy waiting for the Moon to rise, so
he could visit an old friend. And 50-plus
years later, I realize with my returning
comet that life has come full circle. Ive
now done astronomy for fun, for money,
and lately for fun again. It feels great, and
Im glad to be back.
The action-reaction mechanism of ded-
ication verses sacrice plays a huge role
in lifes accomplishments and failures. So
to be successful, I invested a great deal of
time in comet hunting and my astronomy
career. But I somehow lost that love for
the night sky that I enjoyed as a boy.
Ironically, one of my comets is reigniting
that old ame. Although I havent looked
through my comet-hunting scope since
1999, and I have not truly done astronomy
just for fun since 1961, I plan to take a
nice, long, leisurely look at 154P. Like-
wise, I anticipate my looming retirement
years when I can once again stand in the
backyard with my telescope and reconnect
with my rst love, the night sky.
To his knowledge, Howard J. Brewington is
the rst and only person to discover a comet
from South Carolina. F ive comets and one
asteroid bear his name. He currently lives in
southern New Mexico.
My Comet & Life Come Full Circle
The return of his comet rekindles the authors passion for amateur astronomy.
A
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