What's Up In The Sky?

What’s Up in the Night Sky? October 2016

Written by  |  Wednesday, 05 October 2016 21:50  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
This month we have one of the better annual meteor showers, the Orionids. The earliest meteors from this shower will start arriving in a sky near you about October 2 and continue to flash across the sky until about November 7. The shower is predicted to peak on October 21 and as many as 70 meteors have been seen in the past. This year the experts are expecting a more modest 15 to 25 meteors per hour. When observing a meteor shower, you can trace the meteor trails back to a single area in the sky. This point is called the radiant. The meteor shower is named for where the radiant is situated. The Orionid radiant sits in the Orion constellation near where it borders…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? December 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:27  |  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…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? November 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 11 November 2015 22:59  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
The huge and brilliant constellation Orion rises up from the eastern horizon by mid-evening in November. This one is a favourite of mine with its spectacular nebula Orion at the bottom of the sword that hangs from the three stars of Orion’s belt. It is easy to make out with binoculars and is a glorious eyeful through a modest telescope. Another constellation that never fails to amaze me is the Great Square of Pegasus. Pegasus can be found during November high in the south just below the zenith. You should have no trouble finding it if you go out between 8 and 9 pm. It covers over 1100 square degrees and is one of the largest constellations in the sky! The constellation Andromeda looks like…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? September 2015

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 September 2015 09:56  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Many lunar observers called the Full Moon at the tail end of August a Supermoon because it occurred less than a day from perigee when the Moon is closest and at its biggest in the sky. The Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle. It’s an ellipse – an oval shape with the Earth closer to one end of the oval. When the Moon comes around that end of the oval and is closest to the Earth, it is called the perigee of its orbit. The farthest point is called the apogee. The full Moon this month is better than last month! It will be less than an hour from perigee and bigger than last month. But wait! It gets even better. This month’s Full…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? August 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 05 August 2015 21:51  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
After a nine and then some year trip, the New Horizon space probe arrived at Pluto last month. It’s incredible that it wasn’t hit by any space debris over that long trip or suffer any major electronic or mechanical failures. It’s even more astonishing that it flew past Pluto and its five moons without hitting anything in that complicated and busy area. The fly-past was a picture perfect success – you couldn’t ask for more! Speaking of pictures, the initial images showed spectacular structure and very varied features on Pluto’s surface and with a good smattering of mountains thrown in for good measure too. Who could have expected such a dynamic and active terrain way out there in the hinterlands of our Solar System? The…

What’s Up in the Night Sky? July 2015

Written by  |  Wednesday, 01 July 2015 15:04  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Pluto is almost in the camera sights of the New Horizons deep space probe! It is scheduled to arrive on July 15. This event is especially exciting for me. I’ve had an endless fascination for the far off Dwarf planet all my life. It has caused me much frustration seeing Pluto in my pictures and through my telescope as a bright spot in a field of view filled with stars. I can only find it because it shifts position a bit each night. It was originally discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 as the ninth planet of the solar system. In recent years it has been reclassified as a Dwarf planet. He spent several years comparing photographic plates taken nights apart, trying to find a…

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…
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