What's Up In The Sky?

What's Up in the Night Sky -September

Written by  |  Thursday, 30 August 2012 11:12  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
August was a very exciting month. There was the Perseid meteor shower on the 11th; the Milky Way was at its best and will continue to be so through September; and the Curiosity rover made a very complicated and successful landing on Mars. More information came out confirming the existence of the Higgs boson from Cern, the European Centre for Nuclear Research. The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, a huge underground particle accelerator or atom smasher, was used to make the discovery. The Higgs Boson, first proposed by Physicist Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University and often called the “God Particle”, was anxiously sought after by physicists. Higgs thought that particles interact with a medium made up of particles called bosons. The interaction with this…

What's Up in the Night Sky -July

Written by  |  Thursday, 05 July 2012 11:08  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett What a great Venus transit! I hope you all saw the excellent article by Julie Druker on the front page of the June 7th Frontenac News. Check the Frontenac News website archives if you missed it. July and August are the glory days for observing. The Milky Way arches high overhead from the southern to the northern horizon. Starting In the south is the “Teapot”, an affectionate name for Sagittarius. It looks just like a teapot! Moving up through the Milky Way, we quickly come to Aquila, the Eagle, with its bright star Altair. Moving on we come to the Swan, Cygnus, at the zenith of the sky and its bright star Deneb. To the west of Cygnus is Lyra, also called…

What's Up in the Sky - June 2012

Written by  |  Thursday, 31 May 2012 11:06  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Don’t you dare miss the Venus transit! It’s an event that won’t happen again for 115 years. It will occur between 6 p.m. and sunset on June 5. Please protect your eyes. Use #14 welder’s glasses or solar filters that can be bought at local optical shops or Focus Scientific in Ottawa. I will be by the side of regional road 36 about two kilometers south of Highway 7 at that time and will attempt to get some pictures through my 8-inch telescope. If you want to come by, please do but watch where you park! It is a narrow area. This month I thought I would discuss how astronomers measure how far the stars are. There are five or so ways…

What's Up in the Night Sky - May

Written by  |  Thursday, 10 May 2012 11:02  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett I want to give you plenty of warning for the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun on June 5. This is an extremely rare event. It begins in our area at roughly 6 p.m. EDT and you will be able to witness it until sunset at 8:48 p.m. I witnessed and took pictures through my telescope of the transit eight years ago on June 8, 2004. The transit previous to that one occurred 121½ years before. These transits come in a pair separated by eight years. The first of the next pair of transits won’t happen for 105½ years. That will be December 2117 and December 2125. This transit is a must-see event. Venus can be seen by eye…

What's Up in the Night Sky - April

Written by  |  Thursday, 05 April 2012 10:54  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Photo of the Moon by Fred Barrett Exciting news this month! I have been helping my fellow amateur astronomer Bob Hillier build his new observatory. We had a good fall and were able to clear the land and complete most of the construction. This past week we were finally able to install the dome on top of the building. The exciting part is that this observatory is only 500 meters up the road from mine. Developing a centre for amateur astronomy in the area would definitely be an asset. Tay Valley Township is discussing the possibility of declaring the area a Dark Sky Zone. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to keep their lights off! Simply put, so much light from outdoor…

What's Up in the Night Sky -March

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 March 2012 05:11  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett This month let’s talk about naming stars! There’s nothing to stop you from naming a star after yourself. When I was very young, there was a very bright star in the north that I decided was mine and I named it “Fred’s Star”. There are commercial enterprises that, for a fee, will name a star after you and provide all sorts of official looking documents to hang on your wall. Even educational institutes and charities have gotten into this lucrative business to raise funds. And the stupendous number of stars in the sky means that the supply is limitless. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is recognized by the world scientific community to name astronomical objects – asteroids, stars etc. In reality, the…

What's Up in the Night Sky -February

Written by  |  Thursday, 02 February 2012 05:10  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Coronal Mass Ejections and spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis have been in the news lately and I thought that a review of Sun basics and what causes CMEs and flares was in order. The Sun makes up 99.8 % of the mass of the solar system and most of the remaining 0.2 % is contributed by Jupiter. The Earth’s contribution is a tiny fraction of one percent! To give you an idea of the size difference, the Sun’s diameter is about 109 times the Earth’s diameter. It could contain 1.3 million Earths within its volume! The Sun has an internal structure that is quite complicated but to describe it simply, the visible surface is called the Photosphere, which has a temperature…

What's Up in the Night Sky - January 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 12 January 2012 05:06  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Calling all observers! Send me your sightings. We can share what we have seen through this column. We live in a beautiful dark sky area. Don’t let what you have seen go unreported. This month I am going to give a few pointers on observing. You don’t need a telescope to look at the night sky. Your eyes roaming across the vista above will give you more wonder more than you expect. Binoculars reveal much more of our beautiful night skies. Eyes alone will reveal 3000 or so stars. Binoculars will enlarge that number to 100,000 and more. Binoculars come in many sizes. Let’s look at a typical binocular size -7X50. The first number is the magnification - 7 times. The second…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – December 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 December 2011 07:06  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The Sun is especially magnificent right now. It is close to its maximum sunspot level. This happens every 11 years and the maximum is predicted for 2012. We have a good number of sunspots right now and if this is before the maximum, the coming year should be quite a show! But be careful! If you wish to view the Sun you have to do it right. Don’t ever view the Sun with your naked eye or with any unfiltered binoculars or telescope. Serious eye damage can be a result of even a short look. There are several safe ways of looking at sunspots. You can project an image of the Sun through binoculars or a telescope onto a white screen. On…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – November 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 December 2011 07:06  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The Sun is especially magnificent right now. It is close to its maximum sunspot level. This happens every 11 years and the maximum is predicted for 2012. We have a good number of sunspots right now and if this is before the maximum, the coming year should be quite a show! But be careful! If you wish to view the Sun you have to do it right. Don’t ever view the Sun with your naked eye or with any unfiltered binoculars or telescope. Serious eye damage can be a result of even a short look. There are several safe ways of looking at sunspots. You can project an image of the Sun through binoculars or a telescope onto a white screen. On…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – November 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 November 2011 08:05  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Let’s talk aurora borealis this month! I’m sure some of you have seen recent displays of these spectacular rippling curtains of light in the sky. We are in the midst of what is called a Solar maximum. During a Solar maximum the Sun has a much greater number of sunspots on its surface than usual. Sunspots are created when magnetic fields leave and enter the surface of the Sun. At these points the magnetic fields interfere with the flow of energy coming out of the Sun and this lowers the surface temperature, causing the surface at these areas to appear darker than the surrounding areas. As the Sun rotates it twists and distorts the magnetic fields and they reach a point where…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – October 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 06 October 2011 08:04  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett This month pull out your binoculars and search the area shared by Cepheus and Cassiopeia. Throughout October they can be found by looking straight up at the zenith of the sky. Now shift your gaze 20 degrees (a fist width) to the northeast. Cepheus looks like a box shaped house with a high peaked roof and Cassiopeia is an unmistakable W shape. A special sight is the open cluster, Messier 52, between the two constellations. It’s easy to find and a wonderful view through binoculars! Email me at my address at the bottom of this column and let me know what else you can find. Another gem makes its appearance in October – the Pleiades. This tight cluster rises above the eastern…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – September

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 September 2011 08:02  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I couldn’t have planned things better! I was searching through my sky charts for a good object for you to look for this month and I wanted it to be in the area where I challenged you last month. I thought it would be doubling your pleasure to practice in a familiar area of sky and it would be a great way for you to refine your observing skills. I considered setting you the goal of finding an unusual asterism close to the two constellations that you searched for last month – Sagitta and Delphinus. What confirmed my decision to have you look for this odd asterism is that there is a Comet nearby! Happily, there were plenty of clear nights in August for observing…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – August 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 04 August 2011 08:00  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Last column I said that we were going to visit the huge constellation Ophiuchus this month. I changed my mind and decided to challenge you with finding two of the smallest constellations. They are the constellations Delphinus, the Dolphin and Sagitta, the Arrow. Small but exquisite, these two gems are slightly to the east side of the summer triangle. I mentioned the summer triangle last month. There are spectacular deep space objects to be found in the area around the constellations Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila within which lie the triangle stars Deneb, Vega and Altair. My ulterior motive for this challenge is to get you to rummage around in the summer triangle again and reinforce your familiarity with its geography! Also, Delphinus…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – May 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 28 April 2011 13:21  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Let’s have a look at Corona Borealis this month. It’s a small constellation and can be found between the constellation Bootes to its right and Hercules to the left. I hope some of you, using the techniques I mentioned last month, had a chance to practise finding your way around the night sky. To arrive at Corona Borealis we must first find Bootes. Look to the Big Dipper and follow the arc of its handle down about 20 degrees (two fist widths) to the bright, slightly orange star Arcturus. Bootes is about the same size as the Big Dipper and shaped like a kite. Arcturus sits at its bottom where a tail would be attached on a kite. Now follow the outline…
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