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Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing  

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johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

I have always called the Pleiades the cutest star cluster ever. Giggle When I was young, I used to think it was the Little Dipper. I have learned better since then. Wink  

Tonight on my evening walk, the skies were clear (for the first evening in nearly a week), so I headed into the East to catch the Full Hunter's Moon rising. It was huge and orange, then as it rose, of course, it 'shrunk' a bit, turning more white-ish, but still so beautiful. To its far upper right was ruddy Mars, then turning South, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Teapot, which is tipping waaaay over these evenings. Arcturus (yay, I can pick it out now!) was glimmering in the West. Other familiar sights up above I reveled in, as well. Love the crisp Autumn night skies! Star  

7,237 posts from Forum 1.0

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Posted : October 31, 2020 5:57 pm
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fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin
 
Posted by: @narnian78

I remember seeing them as a child and some of my friends called the group of stars the “tiny dipper”

That is too funny. I've referred to the Pleiades as the mini Dipper for years.

I'm still sitting on my front porch, waiting for potential trick or treaters....hanging out with Mars and the moon. My kids saw it while it was big and orange on the horizon and declared it a Pumpkin Moon.

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Posted : October 31, 2020 6:43 pm
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

Pumpkin Moon. That's a great name!

It was mostly cloudy here Halloween evening but there was enough clear sky to catch a glimpse of the full moon. This time of year is my favorite, partly because of the interplay of the bright moonlight with the newly-barren trees. It's hard to explain in words.

Jo mentioned Arcturus. I happened to wake up around 6am this morning (standard time), and went outside to see Venus and the Moon in twilight. Arcturus was also high enough in the east to be visible over the trees. From here, it's not circumpolar (always in the sky), but is far enough north to be seen both at dusk and dawn this time of year. It's one of my favorite stars and just might be the first one I learned to identify by name.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : November 2, 2020 12:39 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @fantasia

My kids saw it while it was big and orange on the horizon and declared it a Pumpkin Moon.

I like it too — my own term for that sight is a golden dollar moon. Smile (An Australian dollar coin is gold-coloured, if you haven't seen one... and it has five kangaroos on it, which the moon generally doesn't. Oh, there's another point — the moon always looks a bit funny to me here in the northern hemisphere, being upside down. When you see it the other way up, from the southern hemisphere, it looks more like it has a face on it, with a bit of imagination.)

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 2, 2020 6:00 pm
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stargazer
(@stargazer)
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That's one of the things I'd like to see from the Southern Hemisphere, @Courtenay - not only the Moon but the familiar constellations (like Orion) "upside down" from my usual perspective.

I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. I went out around 5am for a viewing of the ISS.  It was going to be almost overhead so I pulled up a chair and sat down (easier than looking straight up while standing). (Being able to sit outdoors comfortably in Minnesota in November is amazing in itself 😉 )

Before the ISS appeared, movement near Gemini kept getting my attention but would be gone by the time I turned my gaze that way. But soon I realized I was seeing Starlink satellites - just a loose grouping, one every few seconds, not the "string of pearls" Jo described earlier.  I haven't seen Starlinks since June.

The ISS was spectacular, blazing almost straight up at magnitude -4.0, brighter than Venus is now. Beautiful!

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : November 9, 2020 12:11 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @stargazer

That's one of the things I'd like to see from the Southern Hemisphere, @Courtenay - not only the Moon but the familiar constellations (like Orion) "upside down" from my usual perspective.

Plus others you don't see at all in the north, like the Southern Cross! That and Orion are the only two constellations I know how to recognise — I have to admit I'm terrible at astronomy. But when I spot Orion in the northern sky, it's like seeing an old friend in an unexpected place, even if he is the other way up. Star  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 9, 2020 12:28 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

What is your favorite constellation?  Mine is Cygnus the Swan, which is also known as the Northern Cross.  The Milky Way is so beautiful in this constellation.  Albireo is  a fine orange and blue double star, which looks so lovely in binoculars or a small telescope. Also, there is the North America Nebula, which is often shown in astronomy books.  And yes it resembles a map of North America.  I love to see Deneb, one of the stars of the Summer Triangle, because it is so impressive.  If you have a sky without too much light pollution you can see Cygnus in its full glory in the evening sky of late summer, although it is easily visible at other times of the year.

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Posted : November 10, 2020 3:51 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @narnian78

What is your favorite constellation?

Well, the two I just mentioned, because they're the only two I know how to recognise! Grin The Southern Cross is a symbol of Australia and of other southern countries — it's on our flag, as well as New Zealand's and Samoa's — and Orion is a splendid figure with those three stars in his belt. If I saw clear and dark night skies more often, I'd take the time to learn some other constellations, but unfortunately I've lived most of my adult life in or near major cities, so those two will have to do for now...

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 10, 2020 4:20 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@courtenay

Since traveling is too expensive for me I have often wished that I could somehow look at the part of the sky that is hidden by the earth from my location.  But then I guess there are people who have never seen Polaris that might dream of seeing it and using it as a guide. The Southern Cross would work just as well if you are south of the equator.  And C. S. Lewis had different constellations in Narnia that I would have liked to see, and interestingly enough, the stars were people like Ramandu.  He had a good retirement.   🙂

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Posted : November 10, 2020 5:51 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

Well, I've lived in the northern hemisphere for 9 years now and I still haven't seen Polaris... or rather, I probably have, but don't know how to recognise it!! As I said, I hardly ever get a clear enough and dark enough sky here to make out more than a few stars.

Hope you do get to travel some day, @narnian78. If you or any others want the best view of the southern skies, the Outback of central Australia might be a good choice — I haven't been there, but my dad has, and I remember him saying you can see the stars from horizon to horizon all around, because the sky is so dark and the land is so flat. Or I would guess Antarctica would be just as good — and you can see the Aurora Australis there too, of course — but probably not a very practical option. Grin  

The Southern Cross is a smaller group of stars than many people probably think — I remember first spotting it when I was in primary school and was surprised at how small it is — but it's unmistakable once you know it. I was taught to look for the two bright stars called the Pointers and follow them to find the Southern Cross. (Just looked up their official names, which I did know once but had forgotten — Alpha and Beta Centauri.)

Just found some interesting further info about the Southern Cross and surrounding stars (the entire constellation is called Crux) here: The Southern Cross I didn't know it was once visible from the northern hemisphere as well, over 2,000 years ago!

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 10, 2020 7:03 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@courtenay

 

Here is a map which may help you to locate Polaris:

https://www.google.com/search?q=dubhe+and+merak&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS840US842&oq=dubhe+and+&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j69i57j0.12834j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=JLXlnW-CqxAEuM

 

It could be used along with a planisphere for orientation. 🙂

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Posted : November 10, 2020 9:28 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

@narnian78 Thanks! I do know what the Big and Little Dippers look like, but I haven't yet been outside on a night that's clear and dark enough to make out large numbers of stars! Unfortunately it's cloudy a lot of the time here, and being very close to London doesn't help. In the country town in Australia where I grew up, we quite often have very clear nights and the stars are just spectacular. I remember once walking home late in the evening after taking the bus back from Melbourne, and the sky overhead was so brilliantly lit up with the Milky Way that all I could think of was "If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me,' even the night shall be light about me..." (Ps. 139:11) (It was at a time of my life when there'd been a lot of difficulty and uncertainty but now a new way forward was opening up, so that was very special.)

Another constellation I would love to learn to find is Leo. I have a thing about lions for some reason... absolutely nothing to do with a certain series I've been hooked on since childhood, of course... Grin  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 11, 2020 6:22 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@courtenay

Happy stargazing, Courtenay. Where I live in Michigan is cloudy much of the time, but there are clear nights too. Best wishes.  🙂

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Posted : November 11, 2020 7:08 am
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fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Something that has helped me tremendously are a couple of apps on my husband's phone that he has downloaded. I don't remember the names off the top of my head, but if you're interested, I can try to find out when he's off work.  One uses GPS to find where you are, and then you point your phone in the direction you're looking and it will tell you the stars and constellations you're looking at. This one was a bit hit and miss at times, but when it works, it's great. 

The other is just a sky map that also looks at your GPS and then will do a 3D map on your phone of what your sky looks like in real time (everything rises and sets on a horizon line). All you need is one point in the sky you recognize (like the moon! or Jupiter, or anything Wink ) and then you can pan around from there to find constellations and stars that you're wondering about. I've been using it a fair amount to attempt to find Mercury, but even though it's up and I'm looking in the correct direction, it's just been too hazy. Maybe this winter when it's cold and the sky clears up I'll have better luck. But I'm sure you could use it to find Polaris @Courtenay. Smile  

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Posted : November 11, 2020 9:01 am
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stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

@Courtenay, seeing the Southern Cross and other marvels Down Under is definitely on my bucket list, but it might be a few years before it happens. I can't imagine what it must look like from the Outback. My nearest experience is seeing a dark sky from some remote areas in the western US, where it took extra time to even find the Big Dipper because there were so many stars.

I've heard from others that Crux is smaller than expected for some seeing it for the first time - apparently it would fit nicely into the bowl of the Big Dipper.

I can sympathize with your light pollution, Courtenay. I live in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities (population around 3.5 million people who love their night lights!). A dim glimpse of the Milky Way or the Sword of Orion mark a pretty dark night here. Polaris doesn't stand out much here, though I can find it. The rest of the Little Dipper (other than the Pole Guardians) is almost always out of the question.

Speaking of Polaris, another way to find it is to face north and look about as high in the sky as your latitude (London is at about 51 north; halfway up the sky is 45 degrees. I'm at 45 north so it's easy from here). People often expect Polaris to be quite bright but it's not. It's special because of its location over the North Pole.

Leo is a spring constellation here, but if you're a morning person you can find it in the east around 4 am local time. It's another one that might be hard to trace out due to light pollution.

@Narnian78 - my favorite constellation is probably Orion, especially when I can spot it in a nice dark sky at a time of year when it's not freezing. (Though I'm tempted to borrow the answer Narnia fans use when asked which is their favorite book - whichever one I'm enjoying at the moment).

Favorite stars is an easier question to answer for me. Arcturus, because it's almost always visible at some time of the night here, and because its orange glow in spring evenings heralds the coming of summer. The bright blue of Vega means summer but it hangs around into early winter, to be followed by bright Capella and Sirius. I should give Canopus (second brightest star in the entire sky) honorable mention since, although it's never visible from where I live, I got to see it a few times when visiting my parents when they lived in far southern Texas.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : November 11, 2020 1:54 pm
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