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.

Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

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.

On A Great Monday Evening

   One of the benefits of having a high pressure system move in from the northwest is that it brings some relief from high temperatures and high dew points. The last week or so of hazy skies due to the high humidity has meant no nights with a clear sky – or at least one clear enough to try to take pictures of newly discovered and reported Nova Dephini 2013. Today with the passage of a cold front the morning skies were picture worthy as I posted this morning, and this evening was the same, with cooler temperatures, less humidity, and clear skies.

   Below is one of the pictures I took earlier. It is set to transition from a non-labeled picture to one with some objects labeled. It is an 8 second F3.5 picture that shows the summer triangle and two of the smaller constellations nearby. Nova Delphini 2013 is straight off the point of Sagitta the Arrow however it has apparently dimmed enough so that an 8 second time exposure is not enough to capture its light.
   To pause move the cursor over the pictures below to bring up the controls.

   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.

Not Going To Happen

meteors   This picture was recently posted on Facebook and unfortunetaly, despite the positive ‘feel-good’ intent of the message, it is incorrect. Yes, on april 22nd there will be a meteor shower, one known as the Lyrids, named for the constellation Lyra the Harp where the origin point, the radiant for the meteor shower is located. Meteors streak outward from the radiant in all directions. The Lyrid Meteor Shower, like all meteor showers occurs over a spread of days with at least one day as the peak when the maximum number of meteors per hour happens. The Lyrids are active between April 16 and 25 with the 22nd-23rd as the peak period.
   No there will not be “thousands” of meteors, however the Lyrids have a ZHR (zenith hourly rating) of an average around 20 per hour, sometimes reaching as many as 90 per hour. This of course is assuming good seeing conditions.

april22   So what makes the above Facebook-posted graphic incorrect? It is how the viewing is described without the caveat that this will not be a good year for the Lyrid Meteor Shower simply because the waxing Gibbous Moon will be in the sky at the same time. Click on the graphic to the right to see a larger version showing the sky at 10:30 pm CDT. The waxing gibbous Moon, a couple of days away from full, will be brightening the sky enough to make any but the very brightest of the meteors visible.

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