Joshua Tree National Park Stargazing

Camping away from city lights gives many of us city dwellers a chance to see the sky as we have never seen it. A great way to introduce someone to the and#147;dark skyand#148; is to tour the Milky Way with binoculars. Find one of those star clouds and, without taking your gaze away from it, raise your binoculars to your eyes. The cloud will resolve into hundreds of stars, with perhaps smaller clumps and hazy patches in the field of view. Notice how the Milky Way seems to be very bright and dense to the south near the horizon? You are looking toward the center of our galaxy, where the stars are richest. The constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio lie in this direction. Just west of Sagittarius is Scorpio, one of the few constellations that looks like its name. Scorpio is distinguished by the bright red star Antares, located in the scorpion's neck. Look at Antares with binoculars. See the large fuzzy ball of light next to it? That is a large globular cluster. Turn your attention northward, above and to the left of the stars of Sagittarius.

You will see a large cloud of stars. This is the Scutum star cloud. With binoculars you should easily see a hazy patch of light. This is a beautiful open star cluster. As we move farther north, higher in the sky, we see the star clouds in the constellation Cygnus, the swan. This constellation also looks like its name. We can see the neck pointing south, and the wings stretched east and west. The bright star behind the wings is Deneb, the and#147;tailand#148; of Cygnus. To help identify the many objects you will find with binoculars, you will want a star chart. A circular and#147;star finder,and#148; also known as a and#147;planisphere," will show the location of many celestial objects.

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