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:
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.
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:
Last week, you began a tour of some of the finer sights in and around the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius. This week, let’s look slightly westward to see another handful of splendid sights along the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way. The tour follows the objects in the white font in the above image. Those in blue font were covered in last week’s tour.
The base of operations for this tour is the grand constellation Scorpius, the Scorpion. The long, winding constellation is one of the few that obviously resembles its namesake. The claws of the fearsome celestial arachnid face westward towards the relatively sparse star fields of the constellation Libra. At the heart of the scorpion lies the bright red-orange supergiant star Antares. And to the east lies the winding tail that passes through increasingly rich star fields towards the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy [Read more…] about Touring the Heart of the Milky Way – Part 2Share This:
The rich and gauzy star fields along the Milky Way towards the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius constitute what’s arguably the most beautiful part of the night sky. Northern observers can see these constellations well over the southern horizon in the mid-to-late evening hours in August and September, while southern-hemisphere observers see this glorious region nearly overhead. Aim binoculars or a telescope towards this part of the sky, or simply gaze in this direction on a dark night with your unaided eyes, and you will see something good. The trick is figuring out which sight is which. To help you sort it all out, here’s a step-by-step tour of a small selection of the more prominent sights of the deep sky towards the center of the Milky Way [Read more…] about Touring the Heart of the Milky Way – Part 1Share This: