In the vast expanse of sky between the brilliant stars Antares in the west and Sirius in the east, there lies but a single bright star of note, the star Fomalhaut. Low and prominent over the southern horizon, this lovely white star is a lonely sight on a northern fall evening. Fomalhaut marks the mouth of the constellation Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish). The star is a pretty enough sight for casual stargazers this time of year, and it offers a very widely spaced companion that’s easy to see in binoculars. The star also hosts at least one ring of glowing dust and debris left over from its birth. And where there’s dust, there may very well be planets… [Read more…] about The Lonely Star of AutumnShare This:
Deep Sky Observing
Articles about how to understand, find, and see celestial objects including stars, galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters with binoculars, telescopes, and the naked eye.
Unlike galaxies and star clusters and even emission nebulae, the class of objects known as planetary nebulae exist on a scale of space and time that’s comprehensible, relevant, and compelling to most humans.
Comprehensible because these tenuous exhalations of dying stars are roughly the size of a solar system, which means light can pass from one end of the nebula to the other in just a few hours, and even our current spacecraft could cross some of these nebulae in a matter of years.
Relevant because our own Sun will expire after creating its own planetary nebula in a few billion years when our star’s inner core boils off its outer layers in an intermittent nuclear frenzy.
And compelling because as you observe these objects with your telescope, you may be witnessing the death of other solar systems which once harbored intelligent civilizations that long ago passed into oblivion, or perhaps learned to travel elsewhere in the galaxy before it was too late. Amateur astronomy is, after all, a pastime of the imagination [Read more…] about The Cat’s Eye NebulaShare This:
When it comes to observing the stars and other sights beyond our solar system, there’s always something new to see. But once you see it, chances are it’s not going to chance much in the coming years. That’s because things move slowly in the cosmos, at least compared to a human lifetime.
There are, however, a few exceptions. One of the most important for astronomers is the nearby binary star called 70 Ophiuchi, a little gem in the asterism known as Taurus Poniatowski in the constellation Ophiuchus. It’s a beautiful star for casual stargazers armed with a small telescope. Serious stargazers can watch over the course of a year or two to detect the motion of the two components as they slowly revolve around each other during their 88-year period. It’s one of the few double stars that make a complete revolution within the course of a human lifetime [Read more…] about A Speedy Little Double StarShare This:
New and would-be amateur astronomers are often mystified and disappointed by the lack of color in things they see through their telescopes. And why shouldn’t they be? Popular astronomy shows, magazines, and web sites encourage people to believe that celestial objects are rich with blistering, saturated color, much like the image above. Why doesn’t that new $400 8-inch Dobsonian show bright pink nebulae, and galaxies of blue and gold? [Read more…] about The Blue-Green Beauty of Planetary NebulaeShare This:
Orion is perhaps the most famous of the 88 constellations in the night sky, and it’s likely the easiest to find for stargazers all over the world. And unlike most constellations, Orion looks like its legendary namesake: a mighty hunter with a shield, a raised arm, and a sword hanging from his star-jeweled belt. The constellation harbors some dazzling sights including what may be the most beautiful object in the night sky for a small telescope, the famous Orion Nebula, a bright blister in the nearest star-forming region to our solar system. In this little tour, we’ll have a look at some lesser-known sights in the constellation Orion north of the three bright stars of Orion’s Belt [Read more…] about Orion, Above the BeltShare This: