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May 20, 2010 May 22, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Clothesrack Organization of Faint Stars in Leo

Object: Stars

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: Good

Transparency: 3

Type: Deep-Sky

Constellation: Leo

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 10:40 pm – 10:58 pm

Notes: Clothesrack-style organization of four stars: two from Leo the Lion, HIP 56500, HIP 55713.  Moon was out tonight too, in First Quarter.  Saturn and Mars were in the sky as well, Saturn sporting a creamy-yellow hue as always.  Very warm weather the past day, but it’s more comfortable now.  All four stars were bluish-white.  At first it was difficult to find a decent reference point for this arrangement of stars, so it got lost easily and I spent a good minute trying to find it again.   I need to practice my star-hopping skills.  This is part of the training that binoculars gives to a stargazer; with a telescope it is even easier to become utterly lost.  With practice, even faint stars can become signposts to finding the objects you want, not just the bright stars.

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April 11, 2010 April 27, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Photorealistic Image in Stellarium

Object: Praesepe (M44, aka “The Beehive Cluster”)

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: Average

Transparency: 3

Type: Open Cluster

Size: 1 degree 35′

Magnitude: 3.10

Constellation: Cancer

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 10:15 pm – 10:25 pm

Notes: While scanning the skies tonight, I found this amazing object in the direction of Leo’s gaze.  Praesepe (M44), in the heart of Cancer the Crab, a magnificent open cluster that looks fabulous through binoculars.  Mars joined the party with a magnitude 0.53 appearance, framed well by Asellus Borealis, Asellus Australis, n Cancer, and delta Cancer (all four are stars).  This will be very memorable as my first open cluster experience through binoculars. Praesepe is also called “The Beehive Cluster”, and there may be hints that this stellar gem has a common origin with the Hyades Cluster in Taurus the Bull [http://bit.ly/blwja8]. With a larger power/aperture telescope, even more stars will be visible. Altogether, an amazing experience.

March 16, 2010 April 5, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Photorealistic Image in Stellarium

Object: Planet (Mars)

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: Good

Transparency: 2

Magnitude: -0.02

Constellation: Cancer

FOV: Naked Eye

Observing Time: 11:36-11:43 pm

Notes: Tonight as I stepped out to observe Leo (roughly scanned the length of its body), I found this unusual rendering of three “stars”.  Of course, upon further inspection I found that one of them was the planet Mars, forming a quite unique juxtaposition of luminary objects.  The other two objects are Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini.  One of the distinctive constellations of winter, it can still be prominent in early spring.  Mars is (technically) still in Cancer, but along with Pollux and Castor they make a stunning trio.  Astronomy is exciting when bright objects come into close perceptual proximity with each other!  More about the twins: according to legend, they were the sons of Leda, queen of Sparta, and after ocean voyagers of the ancient seas were “saved” by their dual beacons of light, they historically became known as the savior of ocean-going seamen [HowStuffWorks.com].  They are a great sight to see as part of the constellation Gemini, which is very prominent in the Winter months and stretches out through great swaths of the sky.   Castor is actually a six-star system, but seems like one or two in binoculars and a small telescope, respectively.

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