From the July 2006 issue

Phil Harrington binocular universe (September 2006 online extra)

Target the Sagitta the Arrow
By | Published: July 24, 2006 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Sagittarius Milky Way
Tour M8’s neighborhood on a clear August night using this finder chart.
Astronomy: Roen Kelly
It may be the third-smallest constellation of all, but Sagitta the Arrow keeps good company. As we aim toward the arrow, lying immersed in the late summer Milky Way, several interesting targets await our roving binoculars. In addition to those discussed in the September issue, here are a few extras that are worth visiting.

U Sagittae, an eclipsing binary star, poses well for binocular study. In 3.3 days, U changes from magnitude 6.6 to 9.2 and back again.

WZ Sagittae is one of a rare breed of stars known as recurrent novae. Usually shining dimly, recurrent novae can suddenly flare up as many as 10 magnitudes in a matter of hours. WZ flared in 1913, 1946, 1978, and most recently, 2001. Each time, it took the star less than a day to rise from 16th magnitude to 7th magnitude, where it stayed for between 40 and 60 days before returning to 16th magnitude.

Barnard 142 and Barnard 143 form a fairly conspicuous dark patch to the south of Sagitta, across the border with Aquila, about 2° northwest of Altair. Although it’s been nicknamed “Barnard’s E” for its resemblance to the alphabet’s fifth letter, I see it more like a C, with two “horns” extending to the west.