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The Autumn Sky October 9, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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These past few days it has been clear out, and so I’ve been going out stargazing during study breaks. The celestial tapestry has changed noticeably, now that we are well into October– as a marker for change I decided to write this section featuring the Autumn sky.

The summer constellations are definitely not as prominent as they were in the summer.  Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra are starting to set in the West, being replaced by Pegasus, Cassieopeia and Cepheus near the Zenith.  The Big Dipper hangs low in the Northern Horizon-I can barely see it, since I don’t have a clear view of the horizon from my vantage point. In the East, many of the constellations associated with late autumn / early winter, such as Perseus, Auriga, and Taurus are beginning to rise.

The prominent constellations now also provide new binocular/naked-eye targets, such as the Double Cluster in Perseus, the Andromeda Galaxy, the infamous temperamental Algol, and numerous other globular clusters and celestial objects (Jupiter is still prominent now, even though it has been a few weeks since its formal opposition; it is still brighter than many stars).  I’m looking forward to finding many of them, and sharing my experience for each.  There is much to look forward to as each new season approaches, and autumn is no exception.

The days are getting noticeably shorter now, along with much cooler temperatures.  The leaves on the canopies of the trees, as a backdrop to the night sky have turned golden yellow. Soon the weather will be frigid, and in return will be the bright beacons of the winter sky; the weather now however is optimal because there are no insects/mosquitoes, and the crisp temperatures are very comfortable. Shorter days also mean there will be earlier chances to stargaze, which will be great.

All in all, autumn is an excellent time to explore the night sky with binoculars (or even with the naked eye). There is much to discover.

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August 19, 2010 August 20, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Dipper-Shaped Formation of Eight Stars in Andromeda

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 1

Transparency: Adequate

Type: Deep-Sky

Constellation: Andromeda

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 11:00 pm – 11:19 pm

Notes: The weather tonight was noticeably cooler than previous observing nights this summer– a cool breeze was persistently blowing, with the temperature in the low teens, but it didn’t help the seeing and transparency, both could be better.  This kind of brisk weather reminds me of autumn nights, which will soon arrive in mid-September and October, although there are hints of it already both on the ground and in the heavens.  While scanning the Eastern skies near the zenith (the uppermost center point from the observer’s point of view), I found this beautiful formation between Lacerta the Lizard and Andromeda the Princess. It looks like a shrunk-down version of the Little Dipper, which is an asterism arising from Ursa Minor, the Little Bear.  One of the  big differences, however, was its inverted dipper handle, curving in an upward direction.  Consisting of eight relatively bright stars (compared to the backdrop), this pattern is really framed well through binoculars. All stars were whitish, except for HIP 113327 (it was more blue than the rest).

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