What's Up In The Sky?

What’s Up in the Night Sky?

Written by  |  Wednesday, 03 October 2018 11:17  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
The appearance of the constellation Pegasus in the east, marks the transition from summer to autumn. In Greek mythology, Pegasus was a winged horse possessed with magical powers. Pegasus, at 1100 square degrees, is the 7th largest constellation. When I say you will have no problems finding it, believe me, it is large and obvious. By mid October and around 9pm EDT in the evening, it is high and prominent in the south. It contains an asterism within its boundaries that is described as the Great Square of Pegasus. There are 4 stars that make up what looks like a box. Three of them are Beta, Alpha and Gamma Pegasi. The 4th is Alpha Andromedae. They are named Scheat, Markab, Algenib and Alpharatz respectively. The…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? – August 2018

Written by  |  Wednesday, 01 August 2018 12:38  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
In August, the late summer nights are longer, giving us more time for observing. Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are a beautiful spectacle by naked eye, binoculars or telescope, but the main event this month happens on the night of August 12/13. The Moon-free sky promises one of the best displays of the Perseid meteor shower in years. The Perseids is arguably the best meteor shower of the year. It has a high rate of meteors with a large number of bright ones. As a bonus, August nights are usually quite nice. The shower may peak the night of the 12th/13th, but as I’ve warned in previous columns, the nights leading up to the peak and following the peak can have quite a few meteors…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? – July 2018

Written by  |  Wednesday, 04 July 2018 12:22  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
You can’t beat July and August for the beauty and quantity of constellations that can be observed in the night sky. The nicest ones and the easiest to find are imbedded in the Milky Way. It is a white band of stars and dark dust clouds that arches high overhead from the southern to the northern horizon. Let’s go on a tour. I will describe what can be seen at roughly 9p.m. EST in the middle of July. Starting at the southern horizon, you will see the “Teapot”, an asterism in the constellation Sagittarius. An asterism is a formation of stars in a constellation that can resemble an everyday object. In this case, a Teapot, and at the end of the spout you can find…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? May 2018 by Fred Barrett

Written by  |  Wednesday, 02 May 2018 12:10  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Venus, Jupiter and Mars are real treats to observe this Month! Saturn is coming on strong as well. Jupiter reaches opposition on May 8th. That means that Earth will be in a direct line between Jupiter and the Sun and Jupiter will be at its closest to our planet – can’t get any better than that. The King of planets won’t be alone up there. Venus is bright just north of the Hyades star cluster which can be found to the upper right of Orion in the western horizon. Saturn rises soon after midnight in early May and is followed by Mars an hour or so later. At twilight Jupiter can be seen low in the east around 8:30 pm. You should wait for the…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? March 2018

Written by  |  Wednesday, 07 March 2018 11:54  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
It’s going to be an exciting month for planets and we have 2 full moons again, just like January. They occur on March 1st and 31st. Since the months of the year don’t quite match the lunar cycles, 2 full moons in one month can be the result, and the second full moon is called a Blue Moon. It is rare and happens every two to three years. To have a year in which two months have two full moons is exceptionally rare! It can happen only three to five times in a century. The next time it will happen is 2037. March is a dull month for meteor watchers. There are no major shows in the sky! A consolation prize is offered with the…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? - February 2018

Written by  |  Wednesday, 31 January 2018 13:17  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I must apologize for not providing a column for the last 2 months. Some family matters needed to be addressed. But, I’m back. If this column arrives at your mailbox before January 31st, be aware that a second Full Moon for January will occur on that date. It’s called a Blue Moon when 2 Full Moons occur in the same month. It is also a full lunar eclipse. Sadly our area is too far east and for us the eclipse begins around 6:45 am. The Moon sets long before it can reach totality. Don’t grieve too much. There’s another total lunar eclipse of the Moon due in July. It’s Orion’s time of year. If you go outside about 7 pm in the evening, it is…

August 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 02 August 2017 14:20  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
The big news this month is that a partial eclipse of the Sun will occur in our area on August 21 starting about 1 pm. Our American friends can view the Total Eclipse along a path that curves across the middle of the United States. If you are ambitious enough and want to see the total eclipse in person, you will have to travel to the American south on a line through Kentucky to South Carolina. It’s an experience like no other and well worth the effort. In our area, we will have the shadow of the Moon cover about 60 to 70 percent of the Sun. Looking directly at the Sun to view the partial eclipse is a bad, bad idea. Welders goggles rated…

What’s Up in the Night Sky - July 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 05 July 2017 11:56  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
This month you will notice that there is a picture of a star field included with the column.  It encompasses the summer triangle in its entirety.  The circled star at the far left is Deneb at the tail of the Swan constellation Cygnus.  The star circled at middle top is Vega in the constellation Lyra.  The 3rd star at the bottom right is Altair in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle.  After the long summer evening has darkened enough, look approximately straight up and right in the middle of the band of the Milky Way.  These 3 bright stars should be prominent amongst all the others.  Compare what you see with the picture and hopefully the summer triangle will pop right out.  Vega, especially, is very…

What’s Up in the Night Sky - June 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 31 May 2017 13:52  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I had a fellow email me last month asking if a modest size drawing or picture of the night sky for the month of the column could be included to help find the constellations and objects I point out in the column.  I’ll see what I can do.  The column has limited space and an illustration would eat up some of the limited territory that is set aside for me.  I suppose I could tighten things up a little bit.  I would love to go out and take a picture of the night sky, just before the start of that month and in time for the column and use it to help you get your bearings.  I could also make a drawing for that month…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – May 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 03 May 2017 10:59  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Where oh where are Spirit and Opportunity?  These 2 Mars rovers landed successfully on Mars in 2004.  In 2009, poor Spirit rover succumbed when one of its 6 wheels went lame.  It could travel and move at a much-reduced rate by going backwards but soon it got stuck, and in March 2010 it had to be abandoned.  Incredibly, Opportunity rover is still working very well thank you and still collecting very useful scientific data about Mars.  Just recently it left its data collecting position on the rim of a crater named Tribulation after a 90 day stay.  It is now heading towards a nearby feature called Perseverance Valley.  Spirit lasted 6 years and so far, Opportunity has been constantly collecting valuable data about Mars for…

What’s Up in the Night Sky - March 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 08 March 2017 12:33  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Did you know that the Earth is not a perfect sphere?  There’s a special area of study in mathematics that involves measurements of Earth.  It is called ‘geodesty’.  It got its start in the 17th century when improvements in the field of astronomy made astronomical measurements more accurate.  A need for precise mathematical descriptions became necessary.  Earth can be described as a flattened sphere or more mathematically, as an oblate spheroid.  This is a sphere that is wider at its horizontal axis than it is at the vertical axis.  Due to the Earth’s rotational velocity (1674.4 Km/h), our planet is flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator.  Our planet’s diameter between the poles is about 12,713 Km and at the equator roughly 12,756…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? - February 2017

Written by  |  Friday, 03 February 2017 14:54  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
What’s up there indeed?  In this column, I’m going to talk about, um… nothing.  Did that catch your attention?  There are vast spaces between the stars and galaxies that appear to be completely empty, seemingly filled with nothing!  Even our Solar system looks to be mostly empty space out past the Sun.  It contains only a miniscule amount of material.  When compared to the Sun, the planets and asteroids and meteors take up only a extremely tiny fraction of the space out there.  Empty space reigns supreme… or does it? In the 18th and 19th century light was considered a wave motion and this theory caused a great debate within the scientific and religious communities about what made up space.  One side, initially the majority,…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – January 2017

Written by  |  Wednesday, 11 January 2017 12:19  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I hope the New Year finds you all raring to get out there and find all the adventures and challenges that our beautiful skies have to offer!  Of course, the minus temperatures demand dressing carefully to keep warm but the crisp, clear vista overhead that comes with the below zero weather sure makes it worth it. I won’t tell you how to dress to fend off icicle formation at the end of your nose since we should be winter experts by now but here’s some tips that you might find useful.  Wear your warmest boots.  It is surprising how much heat is lost through your feet while standing out in the snow.  Use hand warmers wrapped around your binoculars to keep the eyepieces (ocular lenses)…

What’s Up in the Night Sky - The Star of Bethlehem

Written by  |  Wednesday, 21 December 2016 13:06  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
To track down the celestial event that occurred 2000 years ago that might be interpreted as the Star of Bethlehem, we must have a reasonably accurate idea of when Jesus Christ was born.  Theological historians place the birth of Jesus in September or October in 3 or 2 BC.  They researched several historical facts derived from biblical accounts in Matthew and Luke to arrive at that date.  These facts included the date of the census taken at that time, who was ruling Judea and Syria and the death of Herod in 1 BC.  First, it must be noted that in ancient times the word ‘star’ could be interpreted several ways.  It could be any bright object that traveled across the sky.  We can discount a…

What’s Up in the Night Sky - December 2016

Written by  |  Wednesday, 07 December 2016 14:16  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I remember a Christmas Day some 15 years ago when a ¾ partial eclipse of the Sun occurred at midday.  It was a cool, clear day and I was out there with my tripod and camera (a primitive DSLR) taking time lapse photos of the event while family and friends were inside celebrating the day and looking forward to a great Christmas feast.  They finally dragged my frozen body inside to carve the turkey!  I’m not saying that you gentle readers should be as fanatical as me but with the extra free time that the holiday season provides, it’s a golden opportunity for some early evening observing. There’s certainly plenty up there.  If you go out about 8 pm and look straight up towards the…
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