Northern Michigan astronomy buff Mick Groszko talks binoculars for stargazing

‘LOOK UP! WHAT’S IN THE NIGHT SKY?’ BY MICK GROSZKO, GUEST COLUMNIST

First of all welcome to summer! The Summer Solstice occurred at 6:34 p.m. yesterday so today is the official first full day of summer.

With the arrival of the warm summer nights, binoculars are a great way to explore the sky.

With a much larger field of view than a telescope, binoculars make it easier to find many celestial objects.

So what do the funny numbers on binoculars mean? When you see something like 7X25, the 7X means your binoculars are 7 power or are magnifying the sky 7 times.

 

The higher the power you have the larger objects will appear to be but the narrower the field of view making dim objects harder to find.

Also higher power binos will be harder to hold steady.

The 25 is the diameter of the front lens in millimeters.

This is most important when using the binoculars for night sky viewing because the larger the lens, the more light it will gather and the brighter you will see very dim objects.

Where to start?

The moon presents a beautiful view through binoculars.

Yesterday was the full Moon.

It will be rising just after sunset and growing smaller as the week progresses.

The best time to view the moon is when it is not full.

At full moon the light from the sun is shining straight down on its surface.

At first quarter or last quarter the light is coming from the side causing shadows that make the mountains and craters much more distinct.

There are three bright planets on display right now.

Jupiter is high in the south west at sunset.

With its four moons visible, it is a beautiful sight.

There is a free app for your android cell phones called “Sun Moon and Planets” to help you identify Jupiter’s moons.

Mars and Saturn are both rising in the east as the sun goes down.

Mars is the brighter of the two with its distinctive reddish hue.

Saturn is slightly lower and to the left of Mars.

A little more of a challenge but well worth the effort is the globular cluster M13 in the constellation Hercules.

If you don’t have a star chart, “Stellarium” is a free download program for computers and “Sky Safari” for your smart phones are great programs.

M13 is mass of about 300,000 stars about 25,000 light years away!

In other words the light we are seeing left those stars 25,000 years ago and is just getting here now.

It will appear like a small fuzzy ball.

You can use something called averted vision to see it a little better.

By looking a little off the side you can place a more sensitive portion of your eye on the object you want to see.

Enjoy the night sky and don’t forget the bug spray!

 

Don’t forget to put the dates for the NOMAC Summer Star Party on your calendar. This will be on July 28-31 at the Wildwood Observatory, located one mile north of Boyne City. More info later in this column.

This photo of M13 was taken by Mick Groszko
This photo of M13 was taken by Mick Groszko

Mick Groszko is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer in the Petoskey area and can be contacted at mgroszko1@aol.com