What's Up In The Sky?

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…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – April 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 31 March 2011 07:27  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett I’ve been giving you a good dose of hard science lately. I thought that maybe I should give that a rest for a while and change direction by offering up a few tips and techniques on basic observing. Some of you have written or talked to me about what a huge challenge it is staring up at all the stars crowding a beautiful clear night sky and trying to make any sense or order out of that vast cloud of stars. Even the Big Dipper can get lost and be difficult to find! What to do? The solution will require modest effort. The most important first step is to get a star chart of the whole night sky. It’s hard to learn…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – March

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 March 2011 06:26  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett This month let’s have a look at where White Dwarf stars come from. We learned last month that stars under 8 times the mass of our Sun do not blow up as Supernovae. Stars with less than 8 solar masses fuse hydrogen to helium in the star’s core until all the hydrogen there is used up. Now helium starts fusing into oxygen and carbon. The fusion of helium gives off more heat than hydrogen fusion and increases the temperature of the core. Also, since the products of helium fusion are denser than helium, the core shrinks and this makes the core even hotter. The higher temperature and density causes the hydrogen surrounding the core to start fusing. The pressure from this fusion…

What’s Up in the Night Sky – February 2011

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 February 2011 06:18  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Supernovas, planetary nebulas, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes. What are they all anyway?   It was all over the news recently that 10-year-old Kathryn Gray of Fredericton, New Brunswick, became the youngest person ever to discover an exploding star called a supernova. She spotted it on New Year’s Eve.   That got me thinking that it might be interesting to discuss what causes a supernova. Last month I wrote that scientists don’t understand 95% of the universe. Of the remaining 5%, all but a tiny amount, 0.03%, is stars, hydrogen, helium and neutrinos. We and everything around us is made up of that remaining 0.03%.  Where did that 0.03% come from? Those ingredients came from exploding stars - supernovas. We are…

What’s up in the sky – Christmas 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 16 December 2010 05:34  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Photo left: Fred Barrett, courtesy Fred Barrett Normally in the last column of the year I would write about what to expect in January of next year. But January is quite a few days away, so I thought instead to give you a few reminders of the rich events and objects to watch for in the last weeks of December and the first week of January 2011! Watch for the rest of January’s events in the January 6 column next year! A total lunar eclipse will occur during the night of December 20/21. The eclipse begins at 1:30 AM EST as Earth’s shadow starts to advance across the Moon. Totality happens at 2:41 AM and lasts until 3:53 AM. After that you…

What’s up in the sky – November 26/10

Written by  |  Thursday, 28 October 2010 06:40  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett November’s column marks the start of my second year as your friendly, local astronomy scribbler. I hope that I have tempted more than a few of you to go out and look up at the beauty of our dark country skies. It’s something that city dwellers rarely enjoy. And don’t be afraid to drop me a line and tell me how I can make this column better. On to business; let’s have a look at Cepheus this month! In Greek myth Cepheus was king of Ethiopia and he had a wife, Cassiopeia and a beautiful daughter, Andromeda. Unfortunately Cassiopeia bragged one too many times that she and her daughter were more beautiful than the Nereids, normally friendly sea nymphs. When these daughters…

What's Up in the Sky - October 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 30 September 2010 06:41  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Nights are cooling off now and darkness is falling much earlier. Speaking of fall, I have written before that it is the best time of the whole year for astronomy. You don’t have to wait up late for a dark sky and there are few or no bugs to torment you. Also, some of the spectacular summer constellations are still in the sky and readily available for your viewing pleasure. Review some of my summer columns and go out and have another look. Look in the summer triangle area. Its three constellations, Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila, are up there in all their splendor. Note that they have shifted more to the western horizon. Another advantage to early darkness is that you can…

What’s up in the sky – September 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 02 September 2010 06:45  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The nights are getting longer and the sun is setting earlier. Thank goodness we don’t have to stay up quite so late to tour the heavens and there are fewer squadrons of bugs orbiting about our heads. With its crisp clear and steady air, fall is my favourite time for observing. Sunset in early September is around 8:20 PM, with sunrise arriving near 5:50 AM. In late September those times change to about 7:45 PM for sunset and 6:15 AM for sunrise. We’re off to the big ‘W’ this month - Cassiopeia. This constellation looks like a leaning, slightly flattened on one side, letter W within the Milky Way North East of the zenith. It should be dark enough around 9PM to…

What’s up in the sky – August 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 29 July 2010 08:29  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The Summer Triangle - note that straight up is North East. This month we’re off to rummage around the asterism known as the Summer Triangle. It’s made up of three bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair in three constellations, Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila. Prominent high above at twilight from May through to early fall, the Triangle stretches across some 38 degrees. To find the Triangle, go out just after sunset and face east. Look almost straight up and watch for the first star to appear. Voila! That’s Vega! It is the first star of the three that make up the Summer Triangle. It’s about three times larger than our Sun and 50 times brighter. Now, look to the right (or southeast) of…

What’s up in the sky – July 2010

Written by  |  Wednesday, 30 June 2010 08:31  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett This month and next provide a feast of stellar targets for binoculars and wide field telescopes. There are enough nebulae, galaxies, globular and open clusters to satisfy the greediest of stargazers and most are quite easy to find! There’s a catch though. Isn’t there always? In mid-summer, dark enough stargazing skies arrive late in the evening and the sun starts poking its light above the eastern horizon and spoiling the fun much too early! A defense against hungry, buzzing flying critters must be found as well. Be careful using anti bug spray or fluid. Some brands can damage equipment, literally melt plastic. To be safe, I use burn coils. The viewing rewards at mid-summer more than make up for the extra challenges.…

What’s up in the sky – June 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 03 June 2010 08:33  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett There’s a special treat this month for those of you willing to put in a little extra effort. About an hour before the first glimmer of dawn in the East, you will be able to see Comet McNaught (Comet C/2009 R1). Robert McNaught of Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory discovered it as part of a NASA sponsored survey looking for potentially dangerous near Earth objects (NEOs). It will get brighter as the month progresses but the best time for seeing it is mid June. The new moon is on the 12th so the sky will be free of moonlight. Also, the balance between its brightness and its placement low above the horizon as dawn arrives makes it easier to find and view. Since…

What’s Up In the Sky - May 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 29 April 2010 08:44  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett The constellation Virgo is prominent in the South at mid-evening this month. In many cultures she is identified with purity, maidens and fertility. In ancient times she was a goddess who represented the harvest and growing crops. It is especially suitable then that Virgo can be easily found via the star Spica, which has the meaning “ear of wheat”! Alpha Virginus or Spica is the most noticeable star at the bottom portion of Virgo. Typically, the brightest star in a constellation is designated by the Greek letter alpha. To find Spica go outside at about 10PM and face south. Wait for your eyes to dark adapt, then, with your arm stretched out, count up five or six fist widths (50 or so…

What’s Up In the Sky - April 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 April 2010 08:46  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett We still have the winter constellations gathered around Orion in the South and Southwest during the evening. Fifteen degrees left of the sullen red eye of Betelgeuse on the right shoulder of Orion, you encounter the bright star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor. Procyon is less than 12 light years away and is one of our nearest stellar neighbours. It has a white dwarf companion that is very difficult to find next to the brilliance of Procyon. Looking about 15 degrees higher, you will see Mars between the constellation Cancer on the left and Gemini on the right. Mars’ brightness has faded since opposition at the end of January but even with the loss of almost a magnitude of brightness and…

What’s Up In the Sky - March 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 25 February 2010 09:26  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett We still have the winter constellations gathered around Orion in the South and Southwest during the evening. Fifteen degrees left of the sullen red eye of Betelgeuse on the right shoulder of Orion, you encounter the bright star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor. Procyon is less than 12 light years away and is one of our nearest stellar neighbours. It has a white dwarf companion that is very difficult to find next to the brilliance of Procyon. Looking about 15 degrees higher, you will see Mars between the constellation Cancer on the left and Gemini on the right. Mars’ brightness has faded since opposition at the end of January but even with the loss of almost a magnitude of brightness and…

What's Up in the Sky - February 2010

Written by  |  Thursday, 28 January 2010 09:52  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
By Fred Barrett Orion is high in the South during February and at its glorious Winter peak for observing. Though there’s still plenty to explore in that territory, this month I’m going to point out a few objects to watch for in nearby Taurus. The most prominent object contained in its border is the Hyades star cluster. Find the top of Orion’s prominent hourglass shape and go right and at an upwards angle for about 15 degrees. By the way, the hourglass shape is only a part of Orion’s full outline. It would be more accurate to call the hourglass pattern an ‘asterism’. An asterism is a pattern of stars that looks like a common everyday object. It can be part of one or more…
Page 4 of 4
 

News From Across Frontenac

Click Here for More