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:
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.
When time is tight and the weather turns cold, and I grow despondent at the light-polluted skies under which I find myself, I turn to a class of celestial objects that are very forgiving of observing conditions and telescope aperture: double and multiple stars. There are thousands of these objects visible during the year. Many are run-of-the-mill sights. But many more present a lovely appearance in a small telescope, revealing color, brightness contrast, and a jewel-like appearance that appeal to the artistically inclined while also packing plenty of physics and sheer challenge to the observer.
In this installment of Cosmic Pursuits, I share with you three double and multiple stars in and around the throne of the legendary Ethiopian queen (along with a couple of extraordinary ‘bonus objects’). So grab a small telescope and head out to see them for yourself. The map above shows you where to find these relatively bright star systems and ‘bonus objects’… [Read more…] about Hopping Double Stars in CassiopeiaShare This:
Aquarius is a dim constellation in a barren patch of sky far off the plane of the Milky Way. Just east of Capricorn, it marks the 11th constellation of the zodiac. This dim constellation lies near the other “watery” constellations including Cetus, the Sea Monster (or whale), Pisces, the Fishes, and Eridanus, the River. This ancient constellation was associated with water or water bearers since Babylonian times. Some representations have the water bearer pouring water into a stream that leads to the bright star Fomalhaut, the mouth of the southern fishes Piscis Austrinus. Like Capricorn, Aquarius has far fewer deep-sky sights than Sagittarius. But there are a handful of objects here of enduring interest including the famous Helix Nebula, one of the nearest planetary nebulae to Earth. Let’s take a short tour of some of the finer sights in this zodiacal constellation… [Read more…] about Roaming the October Skies – A Brief Tour of AquariusShare This:
Many experienced stargazers are connoisseurs of carbon stars, deep-red and highly evolved stars that are dredging up carbon and other nuclear reactants from their innards on their way to becoming, briefly, planetary nebulae. These striking stars are the most colorful of all celestial sights and they’ve long intrigued astronomers who are trying to fine tune their theories of how stars come to the end of their lives. Carbon stars are too far away to reveal much detail directly, so astronomers study them indirectly by examining their spectra. But a team of researchers at the remarkable ALMA telescope in northern Chile have captured an amazingly beautiful and revealing image of a carbon star in the constellation Antlia. Let’s have a look at what they saw, then set some time aside to go see a carbon star for ourselves with a small telescope or pair of binoculars [Read more…] about Seeing Carbon Stars, Close Up and FarShare This:
Along the path of the zodiac, just east and a little north of Sagittarius, lies the smile-shaped constellation Capricornus. After the gaudy splendors of Sagittarius and other northern summer constellations, Capricornus isn’t much to look at. It’s the smallest constellation of the zodiac and the second-faintest after Cancer. It has just two stars brighter than 4th magnitude, so it’s a challenge to see this constellation in the city. But Capricornus offers several splendid alignments of stars that make for excellent viewing with a pair of binoculars on nights in August through October. Let’s have a look… [Read more…] about A Stroll Through the Stars of CapricornShare This: