Canopus is located in the southern constellation Carina, the Keel, and it is by far the brightest star in the constellation. At a declination of about -52o, Canopus never rises above the horizon for observers north of 38oN latitude. Many northerners catch sight of it while travelling south for winter vacation. Almost directly south of Sirius, Canopus is just visible in the months of northern winter from southern Spain and Portugal, and from the southern United States. In the southern hemisphere, these two brightest stars are directly overhead in the evening summer sky [Read more…] about The Star of Good Fortune, and Old AgeShare This:
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It’s the second-closest star cluster to Earth, and it appears so large that many new stargazers don’t even know it’s a true star cluster. But the Hyades, which make up the V-shaped head of the constellation Taurus, the Bull, is a resplendent collection of young, mostly blue-white stars that are lovely to the unaided eye and a wonder to behold in a pair of binoculars.
Often overshadowed by the smaller and more famous and apparently smaller Pleiades to the west, the Hyades are visible high in the northern sky this time of year. They’re visible from the southern hemisphere, too, perhaps 20° above the northern horizon just after sunset in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. An easy way to spot the Hyades? Follow a line from Orion’s Belt to the northwest until you see the little V with the bright orange star Aldebaran at one apex and keep going to get to the Pleiades. Follow Orion’s Belt in the other direction and you’ll find the bright blue-white star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The image below shows you what to look for [Read more…] about The Hyades Star ClusterShare This:
Perhaps the finest multiple star in the sky visible to both northern and southern observers, Sigma Orionis is a gravitationally-bound system of five stars, four of which are visible upon careful inspection with a small telescope. The brightest star of this group is one of the most luminous known, and it lights up the gas and dust around the famous Horsehead Nebula near Orion’s Belt. The star will one day expire, like many stars in Orion, in a spectacular supernova explosion.
Sigma Orionis doesn’t have an easy-to-remember name, but it’s not hard to find. It’s just south of Alnitak, the easternmost star in Orion’s Belt. The total visual magnitude is 3.6, so it’s visible even in light-polluted city skies [Read more…] about A Quintuple Star in the Constellation OrionShare This:
Like many observers both casual and serious, I do not tire of gazing upon the little star cluster known as the Pleiades. I’ve seen the cluster a thousand times, but I’ll still stop and take a long look at it without optics while out for a walk on a winter’s night. Some night I’ll grab a pair of binoculars and make a closer inspection of the cluster, which fits perfectly in the field of view of such an instrument. And if it’s not too cold, I’ll pull out a telescope and a wide-field eyepiece and spend 20 minutes taking in the astonishing view of this group of blue-white stars that formed while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Which, in celestial terms, was not all that long ago.
Why keep looking at the Pleiades after so many years? The cluster doesn’t appear to change, of course, in the restricted timescale of a human life. But the Pleiades is a profoundly beautiful sight, as pleasing as a field of alpine wildflowers, and I never fail to see new patterns of stars both bright and dim that I hadn’t noticed before [Read more…] about The ‘Seven (Dusty) Sisters’Share This:
Sometime in 1955, Mr. David Coffeen of New Orleans, Louisiana came up with $75. In today’s currency, that’s about $700, a respectable sum. And what did Mr. Coffeen do with his hard-earned savings?
He purchased a telescope.
Which telescope? A Unitron altazimuth refractor with an aperture of just 40mm, less than that of most finder scopes today. It came with three eyepieces, a star diagonal, and a wooden storage case, because it was an honest astronomical instrument.
Mr. Coffeen used his telescope from atop his modest trailer home. There was a lot to see with that 40mm scope: loads of lunar detail, the rings of Saturn, the Galilean moons of Jupiter and a couple of belts, hundreds of double stars, many of the Messier objects, and a lot more [Read more…] about An Ode to Small TelescopesShare This: