2021, Mid-June: Morning Winged Horse

Mid-June, 2021:  As morning twilight begins – quite early this time of year – the great winged horse is in the south-southeast.  The Great Square of Pegasus is made of moderately bright stars.  The horse’s neck and head extend toward the south.  A star cluster is off the tip of the horse’s nose.

The great winged horse Pegasus is in the southeastern sky as morning twilight begins.
Chart Caption – The great winged horse Pegasus is in the southeastern sky as morning twilight begins.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

During mid-June, the sun rises early and morning twilight begins even earlier.  In the Chicago area, that’s about 3 a.m. CDT.  For regions farther westward in their time zones, the sky begins to brighten up to an hour later.

As Jupiter and Saturn shine from the southern sky, the Great Square of Pegasus is about one-third of the way up in the eastern sky.  The square is large, but easily identified, to the upper left of Jupiter.

The square’s stars are not as bright as Jupiter or Saturn, but they are easily found.

The horse’s neck extends westward from the square’s southwestern star, Markab.  Its name is thought to mean, “riding, or anything on which one is carried.”

Two stars west of Markab are nearby, then a longer hop to Biham – “the luck star of the wild beasts.”  This star could be thought to represent an eye.

The star figure turns sharply upward to Enif, “the horse’s nose.”

If you’re following this on the chart above, the horse figure is upside down.  From the southern hemisphere, the horse is right side up.

The dazzling stars in Messier 15 look fresh and new in this image from the NASA/Hubble Space Telescope, but they are actually all roughly 13 billion years old, making them some of the most ancient objects in the Universe.
The dazzling stars in Messier 15 look fresh and new in this image from the NASA/Hubble Space Telescope, but they are actually all roughly 13 billion years old, making them some of the most ancient objects in the Universe. (NASA Photo)

The globular star cluster, Messier 15, is 4.1° to the upper right of Enif.  Such clusters revolve around the galactic center in orbits that are outside the plane of the galaxy where we see the stars at night.

About a century ago, maps of the locations of these clusters enabled astronomers to place the center of the galaxy behind the stars of Sagittarius and the solar system’s location tens of thousands of light years away from the galactic center.

Messier 15 is beyond the limit of eyesight and a binocular is needed to see it appearing as a fuzzy point of light.  A telescope reveals a glob of stars.  A space telescope reveals the view shown above.

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Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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