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February 3, 2016 February 4, 2016

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Did some impromptu observing when I came home today after class. It was unseasonably warm tonight, a balmy five degrees. The sky was mainly clear but it was a bit gusty at times.

Only had a few minutes so I whipped out the binoculars, as they are the fastest. Noticed that Orion was already starting to set. Spring is almost here and the winter constellations are starting to set earlier. The big dipper was raised on its side, ladle up.

Using the binoculars I scanned some of the star fields near Mizar and Alcor, the double star formation forming the highest point of the big dipper’s handle. Then moved on to the next major star on the right, Alioth.

Sweeping the binocular field westward, I soon fell upon an interesting formation of stars in Cassiopeia, near epsilon cas. It’s quite striking in my 10 x 50s. The cluster of stars seem like a perpendicular rack. See the figure below, which illustrates this interesting formation.




May 10, 2010 May 12, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Photorealistic Image in Stellarium

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: Bad

Transparency: 3

Type: Deep-Sky

Constellation: Ursa Major

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 degrees

Observing Time: 11:55 pm – 12:08 am

Notes: HIP 44613, k UMA, and Talitha making a distinctive, (roughly) equilateral triangle formation.  k UMA and Talitha are both considered the front paws of Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  k UMA and Talitha are the brighter stars in the triangle, with HIP 44613 being the fainter star completing the top.  A fainter isosceles triangle was seen above this, between HIP 45590, HIP 45152, and HIP 44607.  Ursa Major is also home to an asterism that Northern Hemisphere observers affectionately call “The Big Dipper”. (An asterism is a formation of stars that is representative of something symbolic, but is not necessarily a constellation in its own right).  After scanning the skies for quite a few nights, this is the closest thing I could find to an equilateral triangle, but is quite a marvelous pattern seen through binoculars.  Keep in mind though, that this ‘triangle’ of stars don’t necessarily make a flat triangle in space: it just looks that way from our vantage point in the universe.  Many exciting stories surround the Big Dipper: a famous one is that of the of the “Drinking Gourd”, with which slaves in the American period of slavery sought freedom in Canada. They followed the Drinking Gourd and the North Star, Polaris, which ultimately led them to freedom through the Underground Railroad.  To find Polaris yourself, draw a straight line from the outside two stars of the dipper cup, projecting upwards and diagonally until you hit a distinctive star with no bright stars surrounding it.  This is Polaris– not the brightest, as you may notice, but the closest bright star to the Celestial North Pole.  A less known but equally riveting tale is the myth of the Great Bear in Native American Legend: the “cup” in the dipper representing a bear, and the three stars in the “handle” as three warriors.  Every autumn, the bear gets injured by the warriors, and its blood paints the trees red, orange and yellow; heralding the beautiful changing colors of fall. [http://bit.ly/74qd63]

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