The planet Jupiter is always one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It’s brighter than any star, and is only outshone by the planet Venus and the Moon, and, very rarely, by Mars and Mercury. Jupiter reaches a position for optimum viewing in a telescope once every 13 months, roughly, and it makes its latest closest approach to Earth on August 20, 2021 at 0h Universal Time when the planet appears in the extreme eastern part of the constellation Capricornus. A couple of months before and after this date, Jupiter is in perfect position for viewing with a small telescope, or even a pair of binoculars. You can’t miss it: the planet is by far the brightest object in the southeastern sky as night gets underway in the northern hemisphere and nearly overhead in the southern hemisphere. The visible face of Jupiter reveals so many interesting features in a small telescope that the planet is a favorite target for new and experienced stargazers [Read more…] about A Guide to Observing the Planet Jupiter – 2021Share This:
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Many casual observers get hooked on amateur astronomy after a first look at Saturn through a telescope. More than a few have looked through my small refractor on a night of good seeing and asked of Saturn, “Is it real?”
Oh, it’s real, all right. And incredibly beautiful… the color, the proportions, the apparent 3D perspective of this grand icy world. It is arguably the finest sight accessible with a small telescope. The planet reaches opposition on August 2, 2021 and will remain bright and large in a telescope over the next few months. Here’s how to find it and see it in a small telescope.
When it comes to galaxies, gravity and Newton’s first law of motion often combine to put the finest earthbound sculptors to shame. Take the galaxies NGC 2936 and NGC 2937, for instance. Here we see an everyday spiral galaxy bent and molded by the gravitational influence of a featureless elliptical companion galaxy into a graceful arc of stars and gas and dust a hundred thousand light years long. Together, the two bear a remarkable resemblance to a mother penguin holding watch over a shimmering egg. It’s one of the most beautiful galaxy pairs in the heavens [Read more…] about Dancing GalaxiesShare This:
The Flaming Star Nebula (IC405) ranks as one of the showpiece sights in the northern constellation Auriga. This glowing emission nebula gains its energy from the star AE Aurigae, a 6th-magnitude massive blue-white star about 1,500 light years away. This brilliant star, which outshines our Sun by some 30,000 times, blasts out ultraviolet light that ionizes the cloud of hydrogen gas around the star. As the hydrogen atoms reassemble, they emit light at signature wavelengths of red and green light that make these nebulae so beautiful. Most such nebulae are energized by stars that formed within their densest and most opaque regions. But that’s not the case with the Flaming Star Nebula. AE Aurigae did not originate here; it’s just passing by chance through a cold cloud of hydrogen as it hurtles through the Milky Way, far removed from the place it was born [Read more…] about Runaway StarsShare This:
Conjured by Johann Hevelius in the late renaissance, the dim, linear constellation Lynx fills in the space between the much larger constellations Gemini, Auriga, and Ursa Major, just out of the plane of the northern Milky Way. While it doesn’t much resemble its namesake and contains no bright stars, Lynx harbors one of our galaxy’s most distant outliers, the famous ‘Intergalactic Wanderer’ (NGC 2419), a globular cluster that roams the desolate expanse between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy [Read more…] about The ‘Intergalactic Wanderer’Share This: