Mornings Have Hang Ups!

   Northern Hemisphere winter in addition to chilly or cold mornings may sort of warm you, at least in your mind. If you are outside looking at the sky, over the eastern horizon is a large triangular shape of three bright stars. One star each from three different constellations. Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, Vega in Lyra the Harp, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. This is the asterism (star pattern but not a constellation) the Summer Triangle. There, warmer now?!
   So if you are outside checking out the Summer Triangle, or perhaps Mars and nearby Antares and you have an optical aid like binoculars or a lower power wide-field eyepiece in your telescope aim them and your eyes toward the star Altair. In dark enough skies you can make out the stars making up Sagitta the Arrow a few degrees away from Altair.
   As Altair is rising and with binoculars move the field of view up to the left until the stars of Sagitta fill the field of view. This small constellation, yes a constellation, could be used as a sort of pointer stars to look a few degrees away for a small open star cluster, Brocchi’s Cluster, or more commonly known as the ‘Coathanger Cluster’.
   So if mornings with stars like this don’t warm you up then wait a few months of Earth revolution and these same stars will be showing up in the warmer evening skies of Northern Hemisphere summer and fall.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Mid-Winter Skies

   Tuesday evening December 24th around sunset or after the skies darken look toward the western horizon and you can’t miss noticing the bright celestial object – the inner planet Venus. Also, despite the fact that we are now two seasons away from our summer (Northern Hemisphere), over the western horizon are three stars making up the ‘Summer Triangle’. These three stars each belong to a seperate constellation but together they form an asterism,not a constellation, but a recognizable star shape.

   Wednesday morning December 25th look toward the eastern horizon for the ‘Red Planet’ (Mars) to be above the horizon and about 15o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. In this graphic Antares is just above the horizon.
Higher above Mars, toward the right or the west, is a the bluish star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. And higher still but toward the left is another reddish star. This is Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman.

   As this year and decade come to a close I’d like to thank all my readers and the universe in general for allowing me an opportunity to share things celestial.
Have a happy and safe Holiday however you celebrate.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

ISS This Morning

Screenshot_2016-03-25-06-42-20   This morning, despite the cold temperature there were exceptionally clear skies and so I had a great view of the International Space Station as it passed nearly directly overhead. It always amazes me how quickly the space station moves. In 10 minutes it traveled from over the North Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands to my location in Missouri. Then about 40 minutes after passing over Missouri the ISS is south of Africa.
   As the ISS approached my location it rose up from the northwest horizon passing the bowl of the Big Dipper. Then as it set toward the southeast the ISS went right down one side of the Summer Triangle asterism passing the stars Vega in Lyra the Harp and Altair in Aquila the Eagle.
   The screen captures are from an App, ISS Onlive, on my cellphone. This App (Android and Apple) shows the current orbit of the ISS and also has options to show a look-down view of the Earth as the ISS orbits.
   The two pictures are a set of stacked pictures all taken with the same camera settings: 18mm; ISO 1600; F4.5; 4 sec.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Triangulate to Mars

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.


   Wednesday evening, December 17th, the planet Mars sits low above the southwestern horizon at sunset. Mars is not particularly bright and it may be difficult to pick out amongst the stars in that part of the sky. However the three bright stars that make the asterism known as the Summer Triangle are over the western horizon forming a right triangle. Imagine a line extending east from the lower side of the triangle, from Vega to Altair, and you will point at Mars as this animated graphic shows.

   
   
   
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

The Summer Triangle

   The month of August, while typically warm and humid offers an opportunity for using binoculars to observe several interesting groups of stars after sunset. One drawback is that local sunset is around 8:30 to 9 pm and then the sky doesn’t really darken for another hour or so meaning that stargazing may become more of a late night event. Despite this, looking more or less directly overhead near the zenith after local sunset are a trio of bright stars forming a familiar and distinctive asterism known as the ‘Summer Triangle‘. Centered along the Milky Way the triangle is formed by using a bright star from three different constellations. Deneb is from Cygnus the Swan, Vega is from Lyra the Harp, and Altair is from Aquila the Eagle.

Click on image to see full size

Click on image to see full size

   In the vicinity of the Summer Triangle are several open star clusters as well as three distinctive star patters both of which fit nicely within the field of view of binoculars. Two of these star patterns are small constellations – Delphinus the Dolphin, and Sagitta the Arrow, and the third one is the distinctive ‘Coathanger Cluster‘, or Brocchi’s Cluster in the small constellation of Vulpecula the Fox.
   Near the tail of Cygnus the Swan are two open star clusters that are within the reach of binoculars and low-magnification, wide-field eyepieces in a telescope. About 9 degrees from Deneb, the ‘tail’ of the swan, is the the open star cluster M39. This is a small loosely grouped cluster of about two dozen stars with a combined apparent magnitude of around 5. Approximately 7 degrees from Deneb in the opposite direction is another open star cluster, M29. Perhaps more easily found looking about 2 degrees from the star Sadr, M29 is a loose group of about 80 stars with a combined magnitude of 9, making this cluster a challenge for binoculars but easier with a telescope at low power.
   Much of the difficulty in seeing either of these two open star clusters comes from the glow of the Milky Way. But that in itself is not too bad as the Milky Way, especially along Cygnus, is a beautiful area to sweep across using binoculars.
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

ISS This Morning

dolphin   Earlier this morning the ISS, International Space station, flew over the midwest in a path that lasted 4 minutes and at its peak the ISS reached 85 degrees in altitude – nearly straight up. The path it followed took it from the southwest horizon across the summer triangle past the star Altair in Aquila the Eagle, towards the east northeast horizon.
   I was hoping to catch the ISS as it flew past some interesting groups of stars like the two small constellations of Sagitta the Arrow and Delphinus the Dolphin however the sky was too bright at this early hour for those stars to show up against the brighter background.
   In this sequence of images the sky at 0530 CDT was fairly bright and there were some high cirrus clouds but the ISS was as bright as Venus appears and was very easy to follow with my camera. The images are 2 second time exposures with an aperture setting of f4, and the lens was backed out to 18mm for a wide field of view.

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   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.