The great Hercules star cluster is one of the true treasures of the summer and early autumn Shamokin sky. It’s a dense cluster of stars all crammed together in a tight sphere that you’ll love to direct your telescope to it again and again. I sure do! As with many celestial treasures, you’ll have to dig for it a bit, but this treasure hunt is certainly worth it. This cluster is one of the true jewels of the heavens.

The Hercules cluster, known formally as Messier Catalog Object number 13 or M-13, is not visible to the naked eye. You should be able to hunt it down with a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope, especially in the generally darker skies of the suburbs or the countryside. At the end of evening twilight, M-13 can be found on the west side of the faint constellation Hercules. I think the easiest way to find it is to face west and look up for the two brightest stars you can see in the western sky, Vega and Arcturus. Vega will be the higher of the two. Just make sure you don’t confuse the super bright planet Jupiter in the low southwestern sky for these stars. Draw a line between Vega and Arcturus. M-13 will be just short of the halfway point. Scan that area with your binoculars or telescope and see if you can spot what looks like a little fuzz ball.

Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

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