In dark sky, northern-hemisphere observers can see the winter Milky Way as a featureless, inconspicuous band of haze running east of Orion and disappearing below the horizon south of the constellations Canis Major and Puppis. In light-polluted sky, the winter Milky Way is hard to see at all. But further south, into the far southern constellation Carina, the Milky Way suddenly explodes into one of its brightest, most spectacular, and most detailed sections, running through Crux, Centaurus, and beyond [Read more…] about Careening Through CarinaShare 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.
The best way for an amateur astronomer to literally expand his or her horizons is to venture to the hemisphere opposite your home, to take in the starry wonders hidden from view by the pesky curvature of our globe. This is especially true for natives of the Northern Hemisphere, because the southern circumpolar sky offers some of the most spectacular sights available to any observer. Fine as the Big Dipper and the Double Cluster may be, they struggle to compete with the Magellanic Clouds and the southernmost parts of the Milky Way.
This is the philosophy that led to my three visits to New Zealand. I’m writing this from the Bay of Islands on the North Island, at 35o south latitude. I’ll share some of my observations in this inaugural edition of my observing column, Eyes on the Deep Sky. [Read more…] about Touring the Small Magellanic CloudShare This:
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:
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: