August is a fabulous month as the centre of the galaxy, our own Milky Way climbs all the way up to Zenith and there are so many objects in there to admire. If you’re from anywhere in the upper parts of the Northern Hemisphere, take advantage of the sight. Only at the southern latitudes the centre of the galaxy climbs up so high, which means only from here you can see really good quality celestial objects!
Another advantage for us here are the long nights of winter where you can gaze at the stars a long time!
So what’s the most beautiful sight in the evening sky?
1. By far, The Milky Way: The band of the Milky Way stretches across the night sky from south to north, offering a breathtaking view of our home galaxy. The core of the Milky Way is overhead, brimming with dense cluster of stars, nebulae, and dark dust lanes.
- Saturn: Saturn is back in 2023, visible in the evening skies, shining brightly (and offering spectacular views through a telescope). If you have never seen the rings of Saturn, now is the time.
3. Asterisms (these are the dot-to-dot imaginary objects we think we can make with the stars):
- Centaurus: Dominating the southern sky, Centaurus hosts Alpha Centauri, our closest star system, and the beautiful Omega Centauri, the brightest globular cluster visible from Earth. Together they form the famous asterism of the Fish in the Frying Pan.
- Scorpius and Sagittarius: These are both asterisms and constellations, rich in deep sky objects. We always look for the red supergiant star Antares in Scorpius and the famed Lagoon and Trifid nebulae in Sagittarius (and many other spectacular objects). Here in Aotearoa, Scorpius (we don’t have scorpions) is Te Matau A Maui – the fishhook of Maui, that drags our galaxy down from the sky.
- Southern Cross (Crux): This iconic constellation-asterism remains prominent, is one of our favourite targets and just beneath it, you can spot the dark Coalsack Nebula, a stark contrast against the Milky Way’s brilliance. Many interpretations have been given to this dark patch, including here in Aotearoa being called The Flounder or Te Patiki.
4. The Magellanic Clouds: Our two nearest irregular galaxy neighbors, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are visible as faint, cloudy patches incredibly beautiful and bright from our site at Star Safari Observatory. These galaxies are rich in star formation and are home to many young star clusters and nebulae. We love Tarantula Nebula and 47 Tucanae, which are really easy objects to find but there are so many more to see.
5. Meteors and Meteor Showers: We always get asked about the Perseid meteor shower, it is really not worth getting upset about it, we simply don’t have the opportunity to see it well here. We mean, the best you can do is possibly catching a few Perseids close to the northern horizon if you are lucky not to look into light pollution. However, during a good observing night, from Star Safari Observatory you will see at least a few meteors blazing the night sky. And as we are connected to the Fireballs New Zealand check out their page.
6. Nebulae and Star Clusters: The Carina Nebula, a vast region of star formation, Jewel of the Southern Skies, is one of our absolute favourite targets, with its intricate patterns of gas and dust. It really looks like an eye with a brow. Meanwhile, the open star clusters of the Southern Pleiades (IC 2602) and the Jewel Box (NGC 4755) offer dazzling sights through our very large telescopes and amazing eyepieces.
All you need to do, is visit us at Star Safari, catch a meteor and make a wish.