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Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing  

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stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

I happened to wake up around 5.40 this morning, and went outside to a wonderful sight.  Just above the trees was a delicate 5%-lit crescent Moon, the rest of its disk visible by earthshine, forming a pretty triangle with Venus and Spica.  Minutes after going outside I saw a magnitude zero meteor zip by Venus.

I walked down to the corner for a view with fewer trees, and spotted reddish Mercury about 6 degrees below the Moon. The whole sight was beautiful.

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

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Posted : November 13, 2020 6:49 pm
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johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator
Posted by: @stargazer

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.

Beautiful, @stargazer! I have been slow coming to this Tongue as only this year have I learned how to identify Arcturus in the sky. It's fun that it can be seen both at dusk and dawn this time of year. "Circumpolar" ... and now I have learned a new term. Smile I think I mentioned earlier that I can now recognize the Teapot in Sagittarius, and have enjoyed watching it pour out over the earth, next to Saturn and Jupiter these evenings.

How lovely that you had such amazing sightings yesterday morning (and a meteor by Venus for bonus Grin ). I can visualize the sky, from your vivid descriptions. I, too, noticed, that the earthshine was very pronounced, so much so there looked to be almost a ring of light around the dark part of the Moon.

When we were away in a very non-light-polluted area by Lake Ontario last week, the stars and Milky Way were breath-taking. We couldn't get enough of the night sky those evenings around the campfire. Seeing Orion rise in the east out of the water, or so it seemed, was wonderful. And we saw six meteors over the three evenings. Smile  

My favourite constellation, @narnian78? Orion, hands down. Each constellation is intriguing and awesome, but that mighty hunter is beyond all, imho.

I don't know why I had not clued in before, but I was surprised to see that the Summer Triangle (Deneb, Vega, Altair) is so visible still this time of year. Really lovely, as it sinks towards the west in the evenings.

For two mornings in a row (Thursday and Friday), I was thrilled to spot Mercury in the dawn. Venus and the crescent Moon was stunning there, too. This morning was too cloudy to see any stars or planets, except for the briefest glimpse of Sirius as the clouds opened up a wee bit for a very short while.

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Posted : November 14, 2020 7:08 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

Here is more about my favorite constellation:

https://www.space.com/cygnus-constellation.html

Cygnus the Swan is not a difficult constellation to find if you have a night sky that is mostly free from light pollution. Be sure to look for the North America Nebula if you have binoculars or a small telescope.  The Milky Way divides into parallel streams, which is called The Great Rift, in the middle of the constellation. It is a beautiful work of God’s creation that looks so impressive in a dark sky.  And the double star Albireo is well worth seeing for its orange and blue color.  🙂 

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Posted : November 14, 2020 9:48 pm
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

@Narnian78, I think I'll include Cygnus in my honorable mention list. Its Milky Way is truly spectacular from a dark site - something I've seen too little of as late, and Albireo is quite pretty (I recall it being described as having "Boy Scout colors" since its components are blue and gold).

I have a special memory of Cygnus too. I walked outside to see if the sky was clear one summer night in 1975, and there was an extra star there! The sky had clouds that quickly moved, and in that odd illusion that makes it seem as if the stars were the things moving. So at first I wondered if it was a satellite (like Skylab). There was no internet in those days, so I had to wait until the next day's paper announced the discovery of Nova Cygni 1975. It messed up the familiar cross pattern, being about 5 degrees from Deneb. (45 years ago this past August. Whew, I feel old. 😉 )

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

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Posted : November 18, 2020 10:25 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@stargazer

Many astronomy books have beautiful pictures of Cygnus and the North America Nebula.  The photographs are wonderful to look at.  They show much more of the constellation than more of us who live under light polluted skies can see.  I remember scanning that area of sky from my own backyard when I was young and it looked so impressive, and I didn’t even live in the country. I have a number of astronomy books here at home which have pictures of these celestial wonders, and I treasure them greatly.

Here is some more information about the North America Nebula:

http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/nebulae/ngc7000.html

 

 

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Posted : November 19, 2020 2:47 am
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

There is a penumbral lunar eclipse early Monday morning for North America and much of the Pacific Basin. The eclipse peaks at 0944 GMT (0344 in my time zone, US Central).

This one won't have the typical 'bite' taken out of the Moon; instead, the north part of the Moon (the top) will be dimmed slightly around mid-eclipse.

It's currently overcast here but is expected to clear overnight. It's rather warm here for this time of year (around 25F/-4C).

More details here. That page may look intimidating with its numbers but the two graphics may be helpful. The top shows the position of the moon relative to earth's shadow, and the map shows roughly where the eclipse is visible.

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

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Posted : November 29, 2020 4:59 pm
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

I stepped outside Monday morning for about half an hour centered on mid-eclipse to enjoy the view. The shading was less pronounced than I expected from previous eclipses, but it was very pretty in binoculars. Occasionally thin clouds would pass in front of the moon, and this seemed to make it easier to see the shading.

I'm keeping an eye on Jupiter and Saturn as they get closer and closer in the evening. We're only about 3 weeks away from their historically close conjunction.

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

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Posted : December 2, 2020 2:52 pm
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johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

I am quite embarrassed that I have not learned where Cygnus is in the night sky. But I see that Deneb of the Summer Triangle is one of its stars, so that should be quite easy to find on Summer and Autumn nights, especially the latter when dark starts falling early. I know I have noted that cross shape, but did not realize I was viewing Cygnus. Blush I am still such an amateur, albeit an eager one. Giggle Interesting about your 'extra star' Cygnus experience in '75, stargazer! Thanks for prodding me to learn more about this constellation, 'gazer and Narnian78. Smile  

Sadly, although the day was clear, clouds moved in, so the penumbral lunar eclipse was not visible at all. I'm glad you were able to view it, stargazer!

I, too, have been following Jupiter and Saturn's closing in process over the past weeks. It's exciting! I eagerly anticipating their very close conjunction a few days before Christmas Day. Apparently they have not appeared this close for around hundreds of years! Tonight on my walk the sky was perfectly clear (and cold) and the sight of these two giant planets tilting towards the SW was stunning.

I am also looking forward to the Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on Dec. 13-14. Because clouds are more predominant this time of year where we are, I am really hoping for a break in the weather so we can revel in viewing some Geminids, even for a wee bit.

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Posted : December 2, 2020 5:12 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@johobbit

The Summer Triangle is quite easy to find since the stars are Deneb, Altair, and Vega. Cygnus looks like a cross, which gives us the name of its asterism, the Northern Cross. An asterism is a recognizable figure inside a constellation, e.g. the Big Dipper in Ursa Major.  Hopefully this will be helpful to you in finding Cygnus and other constellations.  Since most people have light pollution in their skies it is more difficult to find constellations, but a planisphere and star atlas may be of some help.  The planisphere will show you the current position of the constellation, and the atlas will display the fainter stars. An atlas for use with binoculars or small telescope would be the best for finding brighter the objects since it has clear star charts and is easy to use. 

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Posted : December 3, 2020 3:24 am
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

Thanks, Narnia78. I know well the Summer Triangle, so, yes, it should be fairly straight-forward for me to then find Cygnus. We live in a more rural area, which nicely helps with viewing the night sky. Our planisphere is used regularly—a significant and very helpful tool. Smile  

Adding to my Geminids comment: the Moon will be New when the meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13-14 ... such a bonus! (The official window for the shower is from Dec. 4-17.)

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Posted : December 3, 2020 4:27 am
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Glenwit
(@glenwit)
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I don't know if this counts as astronomy or not, but apparently on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will have a Great Conjunction (the closest one in 800  years, in fact!).  Apparently it will resemble a Christmas star.  Definitely a fitting year for such an occurrence...maybe a reminder that we're going to be okay. 

 

This is the journey
This is the trial
For the hero inside us all
I can hear adventure call

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Posted : December 3, 2020 9:46 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@glenwit

Yes, I will be watching for the conjunction on that date (Dec. 21) or a few days before or after it.  The two planets Jupiter and Saturn will be less than a degree apart so they may appear to look like one “star”.  Hopefully the sky will be clear enough to them.  December is usually very cloudy here in Michigan.  I remember that many years ago the planets were listed in my local newspaper as “morning and evening stars” even though they were actually planets.  That was the old way of thinking.  🙂

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Posted : December 3, 2020 1:49 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @glenwit

I don't know if this counts as astronomy or not, but apparently on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will have a Great Conjunction (the closest one in 800  years, in fact!).  Apparently it will resemble a Christmas star.  Definitely a fitting year for such an occurrence...maybe a reminder that we're going to be okay. 

 

Can we rename them Tarva and Alambil in honour of the event? Grin  

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

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Posted : December 3, 2020 4:45 pm
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

The Christmas Tree Cluster is a pretty sight for the holiday season even if viewed in pictures in astronomy books:

http://www.guidescope.net/nebulae/cone.htm

NGC 2264 is in Monoceros (“the unicorn”), a constellation east of Orion.  The Cone Nebula is like the “star” or “angel” at the top of the holiday tree.

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Posted : December 4, 2020 4:10 pm
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stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

Thanks for sharing that picture, @Narnian78. It's quite pretty and the Christmas Tree is aptly named.

My social media feed is exploding with people sharing news articles about the upcoming planetary conjunction. Unfortunately, the headlines seem to be getting more and more sensationalized, screaming "First double planet in 800 years" or "Star of Bethlehem returns." Hopefully people will be able to enjoy the conjunction for what it is, rather than what it's being hyped up to be.

I stepped outside this morning to enjoy the sky. Leo was high in the south, led by Alphard (Alpha Hydrae, the "Lonely One"). Mars had already set and Venus was yet to rise, so the Moon had little competition. It was still 30F/-1C, absolutely remarkable for this time of year. A humorous part of the log entry (considering I live in a metro area of over 3.5 million) was that a hoarse-sounding rooster kept crowing from a house nearby.

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

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Posted : December 5, 2020 12:29 pm
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