What's Up In The Sky?

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…

What's Up in the Sky - December, 2009

Written by  |  Thursday, 26 November 2009 08:48  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
\My highlight constellation for December is Cassiopeia and the area surrounding her. I say “her” because in Greek mythology Cassiopeia was the beautiful wife of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia and mother of Andromeda. The Queen in her vanity bragged that she and Andromeda were more beautiful than the sea-nymphs, the Nereids. The nymphs, rather insulted wanted revenge and complained to Poseidon, god of the sea. He threatened to send a flood and a sea monster, Cetus to ravage the King’s seacoast. An Oracle foretold that only by sacrificing their daughter Andromeda would Poseidon be appeased. The king chained her to a sea cliff and the hero Perseus saw her as he was travelling along the coast. He saw her beauty and fell immediately in love…

What’s Up in the Sky – November 2009

Written by  |  Thursday, 05 November 2009 08:37  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
Looking up at the stars to the South around 8PM in early November, you see Pegasus near the zenith, one of the most prominent constellations in the night sky. It’s usually described as the Great Square of Pegasus and it appears as a great square with legs and a head branching off from the square. Refer to the end of this column for links that will help you in your travels in the night sky. Pegasus, the constellation, originates in the stories of Greek mythology and represents a white, winged horse. At first it’s hard to see the star formation as a horse but that’s because the formation is upside down. Flip it over in your imagination and you can visualize a neck and head…

Night Skies - January Venus & Saturn in the January sky

Written by  |  Thursday, 08 January 2009 06:36  |  Published in What's up in the Sky?
by Leo Enright In the month of January, sunsets continue to be in the very early evening, or maybe more correctly, in the late afternoon. At our latitude, the earliest sunset of the whole year was on December 10. Since that date, sunsets have been just very slightly later each day – by only a few seconds each day, actually, and the day-to-day difference in time has been scarcely noticeable. Only by mid to late January will our daylight hours be noticeably longer, as our sunset time moves from 4:33PM on New Year’s Day to 5:10PM on January 31. In the chilly January mornings, on the other hand, the difference in the day-to-day sunrise times will not even be that noticeable, since they range only…
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