What's Up In The Sky?

What’s Up in the Night Sky? September

Written by  |  Wednesday, 03 September 2014 22:16  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
It’s a GO! There will be a star party at the Maberly Fair grounds on Saturday, the 11th of October. The rain date will be Saturday, the 18th. Experienced amateur astronomers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will be coming up from the Kingston Chapter of the RASC and Ottawa RASC members will be there as well. They will be bringing their telescopes and will be more than happy to show planets and deep sky objects and answer any and every question imaginable about our Universe. Having your own equipment is not necessary. If you do have your own telescope and /or binoculars, bring them along and we’ll help you set them up and use them properly. Everyone who is curious and has an…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? October

Written by  |  Sunday, 05 October 2014 16:11  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
What a great month! There are two big events happening. First, there is a total lunar eclipse occurring during the early morning hours on October 8. The eclipse begins at 5:15 a.m. and totality starts about 6:20 a.m. Mid-eclipse occurs about 6:25 a.m. and it ends close to 7:20 a.m. Get up a half hour sooner for work (as I will) or get up earlier for your daily chores and watch the show. Go out and take a moment to view the result of the fantastic dance of the Earth, Sun and Moon as they move about their orbits. The second big event is on the afternoon and night of October 11. It’s the 1st Annual Maberly Star Party! It’s at the Maberly Fair grounds…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? November

Written by  |  Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:53  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Mother Nature had her way with us and the Star Party at the Maberly Fair Grounds was weathered out. That didn’t stop a few people from Kingston and two from Ottawa from showing up just in case it cleared. No such luck. The rain date on the following weekend suffered the same fate. I ended up eating the unsold snack bar sandwiches all week! I’ll never be able to look a chopped egg sandwich in the eye again. We’ll try for another astronomy night at the fairgrounds in the spring after the snow melts and, of course, I’ll keep you informed. I find the night sky especially beautiful at this time of the year. The nights are crisp and when the clouds stay away, the…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? December

Written by  |  Thursday, 04 December 2014 00:14  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
There are two meteor showers this month. On the night of December 13-14 the Geminids make their spectacular appearance. They have a ZHR of 120. The ZHR or Zenith Hourly Rate estimates how many meteors you can expect to see in the sky under perfect conditions. For the Geminids, 120 meteors on average should flash across the sky every hour. The conditions for us will be perfect in the early evening. The peak of the shower occurs well before the last quarter Moon rises at midnight. The radiant for the Geminids is near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini. If you trace meteor trails back across the sky, all the Geminid meteors radiate from the area of Castor. If the trail doesn’t, it…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? February

Written by  |  Wednesday, 28 January 2015 18:44  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Grab your binoculars and have a look at a great little comet called Lovejoy that is sailing across our skies right now! You can find it to the right or west of Perseus at the start of February. It moves northwestward as the month passes. Look to the right of Cassiopeia and then between the great square of Pegasus and Cepheus as the month progresses. While you’re in the area have a look at M33 to the right of Triangulum and M34 just to the west side of Perseus. The constellation Triangulum has the shape of a small triangle of 3 stars. It is just west of Perseus and a bit south of Andromeda. Of course, the Double Cluster just north of the arrow head…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? March 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 04 March 2015 19:13  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
The one thing about January and February observing is that when you have a crystal clear sky, the temperature is usually well into the negative teens. There have been more than a few nights like that lately. The problem with winter observing is that the cold is very hard on equipment and gloveless fingers! It’s pretty hard adjusting equipment with winter gloves on! The electronics and mechanical gears used to control telescope movement can fail, be damaged or act erratically in very cold weather. Binoculars and simple telescopes perform fairly well but frost can form on the primary mirror or your body heat can cloud the eyepiece if you’re not careful. A hairdryer set at medium can cure some of those problems but don’t bring…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? April 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 01 April 2015 23:09  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
We have a nice little meteor shower in the lineup for April. Between April 16 and 25, the Lyrid meteor shower will be active in the sky. Its radiant is in the small constellation Lyra, named after a Greek musical instrument called a Lyre. It is also known as The Weaver because its shape suggests a spinning wheel for yarn or thread. Lyra rises in the northeast about 8pm during April and it has a very bright star at its top called Vega. Vega is one of the three stars that make up the Summer Triangle. The other two stars are Deneb in Cygnus, the Swan and Altair in Aquila, the Eagle. Those stars rise later in the evening. I’ll describe more about them in…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? May 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 06 May 2015 23:41  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
The Hubble Space Telescope turned 25 just recently and I’m sure that all of you were reminded of that fact by the news media. What may not have been mentioned are the many significant discoveries that the Hubble has provided. I thought that I might mention a few. The superb resolution of the Hubble cameras has allowed detailed studies of the complexities of the Solar System and the planets and moons that are part of it. Close pictures of stellar nurseries have provided new insights into how a star is born and the development of planetary systems around the new star. Hubble has observed thousands of galaxies and has actually viewed objects within those galaxies. It has imaged the centres of the galaxies and discovered…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? June 2015

Written by  |  Thursday, 04 June 2015 01:00  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
It’s that time of year again. It is the best time for observing spectacular constellations and deep space objects in the sky but, in my opinion, has the worst conditions for roaming the night sky. This time of year astronomical twilight occurs after 9:30 or so at night and that means it’s pretty late by the time the sky is dark enough to observe. And then there are the insect invaders. What’s an observer to do? Cover up (duh!). Use bug spray but be very careful. Some sprays will melt the non-metallic materials that cover various parts of your binoculars and telescopes. Avoid using spray around your eyes, where you will be looking through your eyepieces and on your hands, which you will be using…

What’s Up in the Night Sky?

Written by  |  Thursday, 07 August 2014 11:00  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Here come the Perseids! This is the best, most dependable meteor storm of the year. Actually, looking up now will give you more meteors than usual and they are Perseids! The calculated peak this year is at 10 pm on August 12. We will get a build up to that moment and then a slow decrease afterwards. Unfortunately the Moon will be just past full and bright in the sky on the night of the peak but we have the lead up and afterwards to see some good fireballs in the sky. Watch for them through now to late August. Remember that they are called Perseids because their radiant is in the constellation Perseus. A radiant is an area of the sky where they seem…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? July 2014

Written by  |  Thursday, 10 July 2014 08:22  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
by Fred Barrett Humidity, clouds and rain just about sums it up for June. On the few nights that were cloudless, high humidity made for poor transparency. It was like looking through a foggy window with only the brightest stars showing. It was also a month for an amateur astronomer’s favourite sport – mosquito wrestling! Let’s hope the weather improves because the summer months are rich with the most spectacular binocular and telescope objects to observe. On a dark, clear night there are star clusters and even a galaxy (Andromeda) that can be seen by the eye, and who can forget the vastness of the Milky Way stretching above from horizon to horizon. Let’s go on a little tour. There is a trio of constellations…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? June 2014

Written by  |  Wednesday, 04 June 2014 23:39  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
It’s that time of year when some of the most spectacular and observable objects can be found in the night sky. But there’s a price to pay. The stars don’t come out until close to 10 p.m. You have to expect to stay up late if you go out to tour our dark skies. When viewed around midnight in June, the Milky Way stretches high in the east, arching from the southern to the northern horizon. It will be prominent and high in the sky through to October. It contains a large number of the most spectacular constellations observable in the northern hemisphere. Starting in the south near the horizon, we can see the constellation Sagittarius, which contains the asterism affectionately called the “Teapot” because…

What's Up In The Night Sky - May

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 May 2014 00:00  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Oh, the frustration! The grief and stress of suffering bad weather can be so upsetting for an amateur astronomer! I said “Good Grief!” (among other words) many times the night of the Lunar eclipse. It was a no show and sat sadly out of sight above heavy clouds. But the consolation prize is that there are three more eclipses happening before 2015. I’ll be sure to give you plenty of warning. This month there are two meteor showers, or to be more accurate, one predicted shower and one possible new one. The predicted shower is called the Eta Aquarids. It’s named that because its “radiant” is in the constellation Aquarius. When the paths of all its observed meteors are traced back, they…

What's Up In The Night Sky - April 2014

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 April 2014 16:20  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Boy oh boy, do we ever have an exceptional night this month! Cancel any other plans you might have for the night of April 14 - 15. There’s a total lunar eclipse during the early hours after midnight and Mars is at its closest approach to Earth all night. Since Mars will be about 8 degrees to the upper right of the Moon early that evening, you can observe Mars as you wait for the eclipse and follow it as the night progresses. Mars will be very bright – as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Be careful not to confuse the bright star Spica about 2 degrees below the Moon for Mars! Remember that a fist at arm’s length is about…

What's Up in the Sky - Astronomy and the Mystery of the Star of Bethlehem

Written by  |  Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:21  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
To try and figure out what celestial event might have been the Star of Bethlehem 2000 years ago, 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 meteor shower…
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