What's Up In The Sky?

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…

What's Up in the Sky - December 2012

Written by  |  Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:19  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
December is always a great month for stargazing. A telescope shows Mars as a tiny dot low in the southwest about a fist width at arm’s length (10 degrees) just after sunset. Venus is 5 degrees below Saturn in the southeast in the early days of December. This sight is for you early risers. They are very prominent about an hour before sunrise about 20 degrees above the horizon. As the month progresses, Venus moves lower and Saturn higher until, by month’s end, Venus starts to disappear into the sunrise. Between the 9th and 11th, Mercury is to the lower left of Venus. It is the bottom dot in a diagonal line that connects the dots of Venus and Saturn. It will disappear with Venus…

What's Up in the Sky - December 2012

Written by  |  Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:19  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
December is always a great month for stargazing. A telescope shows Mars as a tiny dot low in the southwest about a fist width at arm’s length (10 degrees) just after sunset. Venus is 5 degrees below Saturn in the southeast in the early days of December. This sight is for you early risers. They are very prominent about an hour before sunrise about 20 degrees above the horizon. As the month progresses, Venus moves lower and Saturn higher until, by month’s end, Venus starts to disappear into the sunrise. Between the 9th and 11th, Mercury is to the lower left of Venus. It is the bottom dot in a diagonal line that connects the dots of Venus and Saturn. It will disappear with Venus…

What's Up in the Night Sky - November

Written by  |  Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:18  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
I thought that a tour of The Great Square of Pegasus and a few observing challenges would be interesting this month. Pegasus can be found during November high in the south just below the zenith. If you go out between 8 and 9 pm you should have no trouble finding it. It covers over 1100 square degrees and is one of the largest constellations in the sky! The four stars that mark its corners are, naming clockwise from the top left corner, Alpheratz, Scheat, Markab and Algenib. Alpheratz is considered part of the constellation Andromeda, which looks like a V that rises at a diagonal up and to the left of Pegasus. Half way up the constellation Andromeda and to the right about 5 degrees…

What's Up in the Night Sky - October

Written by  |  Thursday, 04 October 2012 11:16  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The Mars rover Curiosity is living up to its name and discovering fascinating info on the red planet – stream beds and maybe life millions of years ago! Watch for the latest NASA updates and keep track of what is being discovered on a daily basis. Another exciting object in the night sky is Jupiter. It is prominent in the east and a wonderful sight with its 4 brightest moons strung around it. If you have a telescope, you will see the belts that gird the planet shifting their size and shape as time passes. Look for the great Red Spot in the upper left of the sphere of the planet. Depending on the optical arrangement of your telescope, the Red Spot…

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…
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