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February 3, 2016 February 4, 2016

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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.

stellarium-002

 

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January 21, 2016 January 21, 2016

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After a long string of cloudy nights, tonight there was finally a clearing. The wind was minimal but it was still chilly. Went to the neighborhood park and observed from there for the first time. It was brighter there than I expected, several floodlights were installed and the surrounding buildings and school contributed to the light pollution as well. The moon was high up in the sky, almost full. Through my 10x50s it was a splendid sight. To its bottom left was a star, Alhena. This star is part of the constellation Gemini, one of the prominent winter constellations.

stellarium-000

According to Wikipedia Alhena is the third brightest star in the constellation.

Also had a great naked eye view of Orion, but the constellation is already past its prime as we are approaching February. Through binoculars, the Orion Nebula was briefly visible but still the moon and surrounding light hampered its splendor.

Finally toured the nearby Pleiades before heading home. Looking forward to an exciting year of astronomy.

January 9, 2015 January 10, 2015

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Went out to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) tonight using my 10×50 binoculars. It was very cold with a brisk wind, but the seeing was pretty good.

Found it directly several paces to the right of Mintaka (the right-most star of the trio in Orion’s belt). Look south a few hours after sunset and find Orion first to orient yourself. With the Hyades above, the three roughly traces a right-angle triangle, with Lovejoy at the bottom at the right hand side.

Immediate impressions were that it was very round. I couldn’t make out the tail of the comet so it seemed like a gray fuzzy object. Size seemed to be about a quarter to half the diameter of the orion nebula in the binocular’s FOV. The level of ‘grayness’ was similar to the orion nebula (about +4 magnitude according to online sources), but with a uniform glow to it.

Weather permitting I’ll try to see it with my 6″ dob in the next few nights, and see if I can make out the tail.

Lovejoy won’t be back for a long time. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a try!

Clear Skies!

 

February 23, 2011 February 23, 2011

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Hydra the Serpent's Head and Neck

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 3

Transparency: Good

Type: Deep-Sky

Constellation: Hydra

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 7:45 – 7:55 pm

Notes: Some after-dinner observing.  Tonight I decided to find something new and eventually settled on Hydra, the Serpent.  After charting my path in Stellarium, I first located Sirius by projecting from Orion’s Belt, then moved West ~35 degrees until the sight in the image above was in my binoculars.  Shown above is the head of Hydra, made up of a rough pentagon of relatively faint stars.   Xi, Sigma, and Epsilon HYA appeared brighter and had a greenish tinge through my binoculars.  In Greek mythology, Hydra was a ferocious sea serpent with many heads, who was the terror of any man or village in close proximity to it; Hercules later defeated it with the help of his nephew Iolaus [http://bit.ly/eODV62]. Overall was an interesting find, but if I hadn’t been looking for it directly, this constellation would have been easy to miss due to its relatively dim stars.

January 8, 2011 January 9, 2011

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'Question Mark' in NW Orion

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 2

Transparency: Poor

Type: Deep-Sky

Constellation: Orion

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 10:45pm – 11:00pm

Notes: Happy New Year!  Here’s to another great year of observing.  Shown above: An interesting “question-mark” arrangement of seven relatively bright stars, ~8 Degrees NW of Betelgeuse. v ORI and E ORI are magnitude 4.40 and 4.45 respectively, and make up Orion’s right elbow.  NGC 2169, which is an open cluster is nearby, but it was not readily visible through binoculars.  William Herschel discovered it in 1784 [http://bit.ly/gU6xwb].

Full Circle December 25, 2010

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Dear Readers,

One year ago I started this web log of my astronomical observations with binoculars, carving a little niche for myself in the big pond of the WordPress blogosphere. Within the past 365 days, I’ve seen amazing sights that were completely novel to me, from interesting asterisms, to glorious constellations, to amazing nebulas.  This was the next step from reading about these celestial objects in books; this was the real thing.  It was that sense of newfound awe at what the universe has to offer, which permitted me to observe in sub-freezing weather in the winter (!) and continues to pull me to observe today.  Even though personally life has changed remarkably, that passion for astronomy still exists.

Despite my current circumstances, being extremely busy with school and such, this blog isn’t dead yet. The next time I observe, I will enter it into this blog and share it with you.

Maybe this site was useful in setting targets for yourself, during your own observing sessions.  It is my hope that you’ve found this blog useful, at least slightly, in jumpstarting your passion for astronomy, or reigniting an old fire.

Thanks for your readership over the past year, I really appreciate it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,

Windsor

The Autumn Sky October 9, 2010

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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.

September 10, 2010 September 25, 2010

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M31: The Great Nebula in Andromeda

Object: Galaxy

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 3

Transparency: Very Good

Type: Deep Sky

Size: 16′

Magnitude: 3.50

Constellation: Andromeda

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 10:30pm – 10:40pm

Notes: Andromeda Galaxy?  It looks so faint!  Found it using the right arrow of Cassiopeia, hitting the next brightest star to the left of the Square of Pegasus, then starhopping North two more stars (the sole star shown above is the 2nd), then spotting this fuzzy object (very small) above it.  Update: CONFIRMED in Stellarium!  This is it!  I’m relatively disappointed that this is the Andromeda Galaxy, I was expecting something more prominent, as this is often a showpiece object for binocular stargazing.

August 28 Part II, 2010 September 2, 2010

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The Coathanger / Brocchi's Cluster / Collinder 399 in Vulpecula

Object: Asterism

Alternate Names: “The Coathanger”, “Brocchi’s Cluster”, “Collinder 399”

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 5

Transparency: Excellent

Type: Open Cluster (Chance Alignment)

Size: 60′

Magnitude: 5.19 (Brightest)

Constellation: Vulpecula

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 9:30pm – 10:00pm

Notes: Stunning asterism about one-and-a-half binocular fields NE of Sagitta; known as “The Coathanger”, this chance arrangement of stars REALLY DO look like a coathanger, all the more so when viewed through a Newtonian Reflector due to their inverted images.  Eight dim white stars make up this asterism, but their organization is really superb, contributing to a truly beautiful sight.  This asterism MUST be seen in binoculars, over and over again… I can imagine this being a classic showpiece for many newcomers to Astronomy using binoculars.  Although it takes a moderate bit of patience to find in urban areas (it’s relatively dim), once you find it there’s no mistaking that this is spectacular.  The human brain is very adept at finding familiar patterns in random groupings of stars, which is the basis (mostly) of the bright ones being categorized into constellations.  Speaking of which, the constellations themselves are nothing but chance alignments of stars as well, organized into such patterns due to our perspective.  This mechanism is still at work within the binocular field, which adds to the joy of finding a coathanger, of all things in the evening sky.  The other names, “Brocchi’s Cluster” and “Collinder 399” originate from the independent astronomers who charted the components of, and catalogued this beautiful asterism, respectively.

August 28, 2010 September 2, 2010

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The Celestial Arrow of Sagitta

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 5

Transparency: Excellent

Type: Deep-Sky

Size: 5.3 Degrees

Constellation: Sagitta

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 9:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Notes: Examined tonight the beautiful constellation Sagitta, the Arrow.  The constellation fit well within my binocular field, yet by calculation it shouldn’t fit within my binocular FOV! Maybe a recalculation is in order… regardless, this is the first time I have seen this constellation (very excited!).  It isn’t visible from my front yard with only the naked eye.  1st impressions: all dull whitish-blue stars, the five stars that make up this constellation are arranged in a pattern very representative of an ancient arrow.  Quite amazing.

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