This month we turn our gaze to a field of view about 7o square in the crooked-house of the constellation Cepheus. The field is a little smaller than your closed fist held at arm’s length. In the image above, captured in H-alpha with a small monochrome astronomy camera and a 90 mm lens, you see in this field a pair of spectacular emission nebulae, an embedded star cluster, half-dozen dark nebulae hiding regions of new star formation, and a blazing late-stage star on the verge of blowing itself to bits. [Read more…] about Star Factories in CepheusShare This:
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The year 2024 is a busy one for celestial events and night sky sights. All the bright planets – especially Mercury and Mars – make spectacular appearances and a number of conjunctions through the year. A total solar eclipse passes across North America in early April. The Perseids arrive in August with the Moon mostly out of the way. And through the year, solar activity is expected to pick up resulting in increased sunspot counts and other chromospheric activity along with frequent auroral displays. We even get an extra day of stargazing since February has 29 days in 2024, a consequence of a calendar adjustment to account for the fact that it takes the Earth 365.25 days to go around the Sun, not 365. Here are the key celestial events for 2024. We’ll have more about each event, and much more, in the monthly night-sky updates on Cosmic Pursuits.
Every picture tells a story, and this wide-field image of the northern Milky Way in Cygnus and Cepheus, which spans nearly 16º on each edge, surely has a lot going on.
To the upper right of this image, you see the blossom-like emission nebula IC1396 in Cepheus with the aging red-orange star μ Cephei, the ‘Garnet Star’, on its limb. Plenty of stars are forming within this stellar nursery.
At the upper left, you see the tiny blossom of the Cocoon Nebula (IC 5146), another stellar nursery at the end of a two-degree-long dark nebula Barnard 168, both set in a rich field of background stars.
Moving down the left side of the image you see more nebulosity culminating in the unmistakable North America Nebula (NGC 7000) and the neighbouring Pelican Nebula (IC 5070) below, both of which encompass more active regions of star formation. Various patches of dark dust and distant star clouds, especially the square formation above NGC 7000 also lie within this wide view, as does the bright star Deneb at the tail of Cygnus, the Swan.
But the showpiece of this image is notable for its lack of light. Just right and below centre you see the vast and irregular void of a cloud of gas and interstellar dust known as Le Gentil 3 that comprises an immense conglomeration of star-making material in the early stages of giving birth to dozens of new star clusters.
Galaxies abound in the deep sky of northern autumn and imagers and visual observers with big telescopes and dark sky have plenty of choice targets. But for us urban visual observers with smaller scopes, galaxies, despite shining with the combined light of several hundred million stars, usually look a little underwhelming. So what’s left to see? Double stars, of course! Often overlooked for flashier sights, double (and multiple) stars offer a great challenge, contrasting colours, and understated but still gasp-worthy beauty that doesn’t take long to appreciate. Here are five superb double stars for northern autumn observers that will make you a fan of these under appreciated objects, listed approximately in order of easiest to hardest to observe [Read more…] about Five Fall Double Stars for a Small TelescopeShare This:
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 November 3, 2023 at 5h Universal Time when the planet appears in southern Aries. 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 eastern sky as night gets underway in the northern hemisphere and nearly overhead in the southern hemisphere in October and November 2023. 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 Jupiter in 2023Share This: