Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Posts tagged “constellations

Bye bye, Mr. Teapot

Sagittarius (plus a faint apparition of the Milky Way?) over our local suburb. Click on image to enlarge.

 As summer time has already ended, the constellation Sagittarius, along with the other Summer constellations sets earlier during the month of October.

Sagittarius is believed to have originated with the Babylonians. He was their god of War, and he stands with his bow aimed at the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Like Centaurus, he is a half man, half beast creature.

We in modern times may not be able to imagine the stars of Sagittarius as a Centaur. Instead, many stargazers know the stars of Sagittarius as a “Teapot”. This asterism is really easy to recognize.

Sagittarius is an important constellation in that it marks the direction of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It also contains more Messier objects than any other constellation in the sky.

Earlier this evening, I took the chance to take an image of the “Teapot” before it disappears in the night sky. I was also planning to image Scorpius but it was already too low in the south west. As I looked at the image more closely, I began to noticed something interesting. On the right (just above its lid), there is a faint cloud-like patch that resembles the Milky Way. I got surprised. 🙂

Could it be really possible to see a faint apparition of the Milky Way in this light-polluted suburb?

Perhaps, yes.

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Waxing Gibbous Moon in the Winter Hexagon

 

Moon and the Winter Hexagon directly above at 9 PM local time

Tonight’s waxing gibbous moon resides inside the Winter Circle – an incredibly large star configuration made of six brilliant winter stars.  Be sure to notice the variety in the colors of these stars.

The Winter Circle – sometimes called the Winter Hexagon – is not one of the 88 recognized constellations. Rather, it’s an asterism – a pattern of stars that’s fairly easy to recognize. Our sky chart cannot adequately convey the Winter Circle’s humongous size! It dwarfs the constellation Orion the Hunter, which is a rather large constellation, occupying the southwestern part of the Winter Circle pattern.

Clear skies!

 

reference: EarthSky.org


Skygazing – Dec. 15, 2010

In hopes of observing the Geminids again, I stayed over at a friend and fellow U.P. AstroSoc member’s house which has a roof deck in Marikina City.

As soon as we were at the roof deck, we immediately looked for the constellation Gemini. Even though the eastern sky was partly covered by thin, hazy clouds and the waxing gibbous Moon shone bright in the night, we were still able to find the stars of Gemini along with the stars of neighboring constellations. My friend, Bea who had her Canon 400D DSLR with her, began taking images of the night sky. You may click on the images to see a higher resolution.

 

Auriga and Gemini at 10:17 PM (PST) Yellow lines indicate the radiant of the Geminid Meteor Shower

Auriga and Perseus at 10:38 PM (PST)

In the northwest, our attention was also caught by the stunning Cassiopeia which was in a slanted “M” position above a dormitory building.

 

Cassiopeia at 11:05 PM (PST)

We scanned the rest of the sky for several more minutes and found not a single meteor. About half an hour later, we noticed that the cloud cover was getting worse and it was getting too cold outside. As we were starting to pack up and go inside the house, a lunar corona formed around the setting Moon.

 

Lunar Corona - Dec. 15, 2010

According to Atmospheric Optics site, a corona may be seen when thin clouds partially veil the sun or moon. They are produced by the diffraction of light by tiny cloud droplets or sometimes small ice crystals.

The night sky is really full of surprises. 😀

Clear skies, everyone!


The Sky at Night from Bohol, Philippines

As what I have written in a previous post, I love the month of October when it comes to skygazing 😀 It is mainly because during this month, my favorite Orion Constellation family starts become prominent in the evening sky, and the sky is fairly clear. However, several typhoons hit the northern part of the Philippines — where I reside — during last month. It even rained during the peak of the famous Orionid Meteor Shower that most people where not able to observe it. Global Warming and Climate Change might have really changed today’s weather patterns. 😦

Good thing, a friend was able to go to a beautiful island located in the southern part of the country and he shared his experience of seeing the stunning view of the starry sky there.

Bohol is one of the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines with its nice beaches and numerous attractions like The Chocolate Hills, The Philippines Tarsier, a number of very old churches (dating back to the early years of the Spanish colonization), historical monuments, caves, waterfalls, and more. But apart from these, what I personally love most about this place is its nice beautiful night sky (which I have just seen through photographs :P). I would definitely like to visit this place soon.

Panglao Island, where my friend Andre Obidos stayed, is located just southwest of the capital, Tagbilaran City.

 

Andre preparing his camera set up during dusk.*

Unlike in Manila, the sky in Bohol is so much less light polluted and very ideal for skygazing. Moreover, the rain clouds from the typhoon which raged the country for weeks did not reached this part.

Andre took a lot of images of the night sky from there and with his permission, I compiled some of the best shots which were taken during the night of Oct. 20 and 22, 2010 into a slideshow below.

Enjoy! 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Camera used: Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

 

 

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*image courtesy of Rebecca Obidos


One September Night…

The month of September which was highlighted with rich planetary displays, the occurrence of  autumnal equinox and an international moon viewing event was just over. This also marked the change of seasons and the start of having longer nights.

In the Philippines, September is usually visited by several typhoons which means that most of the time, the sky is cloudy. If you live in the city where light pollution is more severe, your chances of having a clear sky with good viewing conditions also diminishes.

This is why, seeing the sky full of stars one clear September night was really a great blessing for us. Thank God there was fairly good view of the south and western sky where the nice crescent moon together with two of the most prominent zodiacal constellations, Scorpius and Sagittarius could be found then. The red star Antares, heart of Scorpius, was just a few degrees below the beautiful waxing crescent moon.

But not only Luna and these constellations were captured by the camera. Three deep-sky objects surprised us after giving the pictures a closer look! 😀 These objects were usually difficult to see without the aid of binoculars or telescopes.

Luna and Antares
The Crown, the Teapot and the Scorpion’s tail (click to view larger image)
M6, M7 and M8 near the Teapot
M6, M7 and M8 near the teapot
Luna behind the leaves
Bird’s beak moon? 🙂
Waxing Crescent Moon (enhanced in Registax v.5.1) Notice its craters near the terminator.

I wish the sky would always be like this 🙂

Thank you to Andre Obidos, a fellow amateur from the Philippines, who took these photos using Canon PowerShot SX 20.

Clear skies to all! 😀


Skygazing from Antipolo and Induction of Batch Zenith

To the newest members of UP AstroSoc (Batch Zenith), congratulations and welcome to the family! 😀

UP AstroSoc's Batch Zenith (photo credit: Ana Geronimo)

I just came home from an overnight event to welcome the newly-inducted members of my organization, UP Astronomical Society, at a private pool resort in Sitio Boso-Boso, Antipolo City (Philippines). The place was quite far away from the city, but the two-hour travel going to the location was all worth-it, thanks to the nice resort which accommodated us and the amazing view of the night sky from there. 🙂

I and my fellow orgmates, had fun identifying stars , planets and constellations which were not fully drowned by the moonlight from the waning gibbous moon.

We saw the mighty Jupiter behind the mountains in the east a few minutes after the crescent Venus set.  As the sky grew darker, we also saw more of my favorite star groups like Taurus the Bull which contains the bright star Aldebaran and the star cluster Pleiades; Auriga the Charioteer, and its alpha star Capella; the winter triangle which is composed of  the three bright stars, Sirius of the constellation Canis Major, Procyon of Canis Minor and Betelgeuse (beetle-juice) of the hunter Orion. The winged-horse Pegasus with Andromeda, the chained-lady were almost directly overhead at 11 PM.

I felt happy to have seen a clear night sky again 🙂

Hopefully, I could also take an escape further away from the city lights to see the Milky Way soon! Haha.

Congratulations again to Batch Zenith! 🙂


Constellation Hopping and The Planets this month — September 2010

Highlights:

* Venus, Mars and Spica together in evening sky at start of month
* The above 3 joined by the Moon on the 11th
* Jupiter at opposition (21st) with Full Moon (23rd) and Uranus nearby
* Mercury bright in the morning sky



Western sky view a few minutes after sunset on September 11 – the thin crescent moon joins the celestial trio of Venus, Mars and Spica (brightest star of Virgo)

Philippine nights will be longer as the Sun approaches the celestial equator. Autumnal equinox will occur on September 23 when day and night will have approximately equal length on Earth.This point is also called as First point of Libra.

The rich band of constellations and stars along the Milky Way from the constellations Cygnus, the Swan, in the north to Sagittarius and Scorpius in the south, begin to give way this month to fainter constellations, many of them with watery associations such as the constellations of Capricornus, the Sea Goat, Aquarius, the Water Bearer and Pisces the Fish. The famous asterism Teapot in the sky in the constellation of Sagittarius can be observed at about 40 to 47 degrees above the southern horizon, an hour after sunset as shown below.

View of the eastern sky on September 7 at 4:00 AM (PST)

Betelgeuse, the super giant red star and the prominent star of the famous constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter, will be located at about 25 degrees to the upper right of Mars. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky of the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog, will be an easy target as it glows below the constellation of Orion. Procyon, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog, can be located at the lower left of Canis Major. By drawing an imaginary line among the bright stars of these constellations, an equilateral triangle will be formed called the Winter Triangle as shown here:

Southern sky at 7:25 PM (PST)

Also, flying high in this month’s sky is the mythical winged horse Pegasus. Although one of the largest constellations in area, it boasts no bright stars. Its most noticeable star pattern is the Great Square of Pegasus: four second magnitude stars marking the body of the horse. Ironically, the brightest of those stars, Alpheratz, isn’t even an official member of the Pegasus constellation, being part of the neighboring constellation Andromeda. The brightest star in Pegasus isn’t part of the Square: it is Enif, the Arabic word for “nose.” It marks the head of Pegasus, off to the west.

As you look further south, you can see Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, with the only bright star in the region: Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut, which is 25 light-years from Earth, made headlines in 2008 as one of the first stars to observed to have a planet that was directly imaged with telescopes.

To the east of Fomalhaut is another huge dim constellation, Cetus the Whale, with the only other brightest star in the area, Deneb Kaitos, which means the tail of the whale. Cetus also contains the variable star Mira. Currently this star is too faint to be visible with the naked eye, but over the next few months it will start climbing in brightness until it becomes one of the brightest stars in this constellation.

Normally this sea world is a dim and mysterious place, with only one bright star, Fomalhaut. But this year it is enlivened by a visit from the giant planet Jupiter, right on the border between Pisces and Aquarius.


The Planets


The tight grouping of Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Spica ends its spectacular run this month. All four are low in the western sky at nightfall as September begins, but Saturn drops from sight early in the month. Mars and Venus are still in the sky by month’s end, but they shine for only a little while before dropping below the horizon. By that time, however, the night sky’s next-brightest object, the planet Jupiter, is climbing skyward in the east, and will shine brilliantly throughout the night.

Mercury will shine brightly at magnitude -1 as it reaches its greatest elongation west on September 20 (18°  from the Sun). For early risers, Mercury makes its best morning appearance of the year on the second week of September. Look in the constellation of Leo the Lion near his lower foot star, Rho Leonis. The two objects are 20 arcminutes apart on September 16 and 17.

Venus continues to be prominent in the evening sky, though also low for northern hemisphere observers, at around magnitude -4. The crescent Moon, less than 3° away on September 11 will make an attractive pairing. On the 24th, Venus will reach its peak magnitude of -4.6.

Mars is now shining very low in the evening twilight sky. This month +1.5 magnitude Mars starts a few degrees to the upper right of brilliant Venus. Though the planets will slowly move apart they will stay within 7° of each other all month long.On September 11, the Moon will pass with 5° of the planet.

Giant planet Jupiter is now top target for planetary observers, dominating the night sky and rising in the east as it is getting dark at a bright magnitude of -2.9 in Pisces. The planet is putting on a show for those with reasonable sized telescopes, having lost one of its prominent dark belts and with its two red spots in close proximity. On the 21st,  Jupiter will be at opposition,means it will be visible all night long, rising in the evening, reaching its highest elevation around midnight and setting during dawn.

Saturn is located low in the west during evening twilight. By month’s end the +1.0 magnitude planet will be too close to the Sun to be seen easily by most observers. On September 9,the Moon will be within 7° of Saturn.

Uranus will lie within one degree of Jupiter in Pisces between September 12 and 25, making the giant planet a good signpost to finding its more distant cousin. On the 22nd, it will also be at opposition. If given a clear dark sky and no moonlight, it can be spotted with the unaided eye at magnitude of 5.7.

Neptune will be found among the background stars of the constellation Capricornus, the Sea-Goat and will be standing 42 degrees above the east southeastern horizon at around 7:00 PM (PST) on the 19th of the month. A modest size telescope will be needed to observe the bluish planet.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During September, 10-16 or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors. Information on most of the minor showers will be provided on a weekly basis by Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook this month.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2010 Meteor Shower Calendar.


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sources: PAGASA, SPACE.com, Skymania.com, TheTransientSky

The brightest star in Pegasus isn’t part of the Square: it is Enif, the Arabic word for “nose.” It marks the head of Pegasus, off to the west.

Jupiter and the moon on August 26

Moon and Jupiter in the East (about 25 deg above horizon) at 8:35 PM (PST)

The night sky on August 26 will be dominated by  Jupiter and the waning gibbous moon. They can be seen in the east by mid-evening, after brilliant Venus has disappeared beyond the western horizon. Rising just an hour or two after sunset, Jupiter and the moon can be viewed for the rest of the night among the faint stars of the constellation Pisces the Fish.

With a bright moon passing near them, Pisces’ dim outline might not be visible except from very dark locations. Still,  a prominent asterism – or noticeable pattern of stars – can be glimpsed near Jupiter and the moon on that night. It’s called The Circlet in Pisces.

Jupiter,  is slowly increasing in brightness as it heads towards its opposition and closest approach to Earth in 12 years just next month, September 21 .  This time is the best chance to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be as big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands.

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references: EarthSky.org, SeaSky.org



Planetary Events — August 20, 2010

For Philippine sky gazers, the planets Venus and Neptune will make their greatest appearance for this year on the evening of August 20 😀

The brightest planet in the solar system, Venus  will appear especially prominent because it will climb to its highest point in the evening sky upon reaching its greatest elongation. It will lie 47° from the Sun, its maximum distance for this appearance.

Also on this night, the planet Mars will lie just 2° above Venus. (That’s approximately the width of one finger when held at arm’s length.) Using binoculars will help bring it to view because it glows less than 1 percent as Venus. The planet Saturn lurks approximately 10° to Venus’ right and the star Spica in the constellation Virgo sits 10° to Venus’ left. Both shine a little brighter than Mars but fall far short of dazzling Venus.

Although naked eyes and binoculars offer the best views of the evening scene, anyone with a small telescope will get a thrill from targeting Venus. At greatest elongation, Venus looks like a miniature version of a First Quarter Moon, with one half in sunlight and the other in darkness.

On the other hand, the planet Neptune will be in opposition (opposite the sun in the sky and closest to Earth) and will be highest in the sky at local midnight. This opposition is special because Neptune will be returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery.

To find Neptune,  look for the large but faint triangle of Capricornus, to the left of Sagittarius and the Milky Way around 1 a.m. this week. The two stars at the left end of the triangle point the way to Neptune, just a little bit short of and above the star Iota in the neighboring constellation Aquarius.

In a small telescope or even binoculars, Neptune will look just like a star; what gives it away is its distinctive blue-green color.

Happy planet hopping! 😀

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sources:  SPACE.com, Astronomy.com news, EarthSky.org


Skygazing Guide for July 2010: Planet and Star Parade

Stargazing during the month will give fine displays of celestial bodies, stars and constellations after sunset and before sunrise. This is truly something to look forward to on July despite the cloud and rains that cover our skies 🙂

Here is a post from GMAnews.TV via Yahoo news Philippines to guide Filipino sky gazers this month.

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Can’t watch eclipse? At least watch the parade of stars

If we can’t watch the eclipse where we are, at least we can watch the nightly parade of stars.

No, it’s not a movie critic talking about the current Hollywood hit, “Eclipse.” It is what state astronomers said late Thursday, referring to a total solar eclipse that will occur on July 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. (Universal Time) but will not be visible in the Philippines, during which it will be July 12 from 2 to 5 a.m.

However, stargazers can still get some consolation gazing at a celestial parade of stars, as well as four planets that will dramatically line up on July 14, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hastened to add.

“A total eclipse of the Sun will occur on August 12 [sic], however, it will not be visible in the Philippines. The eclipse will begin at exactly 1:09 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time). It will visible in the Cook Island, French Polynesia, and Southern tip of South America,” PAGASA said in its astronomical diary for July.

[Editor’s note: The date “August 12” in the PAGASA website entry is wrong. Other authoritative sites, such as that of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration and United Kingdom’s Nautical Almanac Office all include a solar eclipse event for July 11 but none on Aug. 12. We assume that the wrong date in the PAGASA website is a mere typist’s error.]

On the other hand, state astronomers said stargazing during the month will give fine displays of celestial bodies, stars and constellations after sunset and before sunrise.

It said the famous Summer Triangle of the stars Vega, Deneb and Altair of the constellations Lyra, Aquila and Cygnus, respectively, is being well placed above the eastern horizon.

The bowls of the Big and Small Dipper in Ursa Major and Minor stand high above the northern horizon with the body of the constellation Draco, the Dragon, winding between them.

Also, PAGASA said the grouping of a horseshoe shape stars of the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, lies on the north-south meridian with the head of Draco below it.

“The constellation of Scorpio is positioned above the east-south eastern horizon, while the constellations of Centaurus, the Centaur and Acrux, the Southern Cross are just above the south direction after sunset,” it added.

July 14 lineup

On July 14, PAGASA said an evening line-up of naked-eye planets including the crescent Moon will parade before skywatchers as they will see Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn in the western horizon this month, 30 minutes after sunset.

The gap between these planets shrinks throughout the month of July, PAGASA said.

At midnight, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune will be found at about 18, 21 and 44 degrees above the eastern horizon, respectively.

“Modest size binocular or telescope will be needed to view these planets,” PAGASA said.—JV, GMANews.TV

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Happy observing! 🙂