A new skywatcher

Ask questions, find resources, browse the virtual shelves.
Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:23 pm

I know little if anything about astronomy but I love looking at the sky on a clear night.
Recently ,I have noticed a light,I don,t think it,s a star, maybe it,s a space station or some such thing.(See I told you I knew nothing about astronomy,) but this star or whatever is,nt a plane,it doesent seem to move. I have had this great heated discussion with my husband who will insist it moves. It does,nt. This may not be any help but it,s to the right of the moon.( I live in Cumbria if that,s any help.) It,s been there for over a month now,maybe more as I may just have noticed it then. Please can you give me any information on this or am I expecting miracles from the very scanty information I have given you. :oops:

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 17521
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by neufer » Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:41 pm

Janeway3 wrote:
Recently ,I have noticed a light,I don,t think it,s a star, maybe it,s a space station or some such thing.(See I told you I knew nothing about astronomy,) but this star or whatever is,nt a plane,it doesent seem to move. I have had this great heated discussion with my husband who will insist it moves. It does,nt. This may not be any help but it,s to the right of the moon.( I live in Cumbria if that,s any help.) It,s been there for over a month now,maybe more as I may just have noticed it then.
Does it look like this: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap111201.html :?:
Art Neuendorffer

Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:50 pm

Yes it does.

User avatar
starstruck
Science Officer
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:37 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by starstruck » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:20 pm

Janeway3, I think what you are probably seeing is Jupiter, it is one of the brightest points of light in the evening/night sky. I have noticed it's light is even visible through a thin layer of cloud or mist (of which we have had plenty lately!!) . . I'm not far from Cumbria, just over the hills in the Dales. If you get a pair of binoculars on to it, you might even notice three or four much smaller points of light running in a line at an angle across it . . those are some of Jupiter's moons! It's a really nice sight to see :)

(and, by the way, welcome to the forum!!)

User avatar
BMAONE23
Commentator Model 1.23
Posts: 4076
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:55 pm
Location: California

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by BMAONE23 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:02 pm

The bright object low in the western evening sky is actually Venus. At the time it is visible, Jupiter is still high in the eastern sky

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 10820
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Ann » Fri Dec 02, 2011 3:26 am

Both starstruck and BMAONE23 are correct, Janeway3, but I agree with starstruck that you have probably been seeing Jupiter. The reason is that Jupiter has been very high in the sky and very bright for many months now, and almost certainly all year, too. Venus, on the other hand, is low in the sky and can only be seen during twilight, and it has only appeared in the sky just lately. Well, Venus is a regular visitor in the Earth's skies, of course, but it was "missing" for a long time until just lately. Venus is always seen "close to the Sun", either close to where the Sun has set in the evening or close to where the Sun is going to rise in the morning. When Venus is "missing", it is usually too close to the Sun for us to see it at all.

But I have to tell you that I have failed to see Venus reappear in the sky over southern Sweden, where I live. The weather has been bad, which is probably the reason why I haven't seen it. Starstruck, what about you? You live about as far north as I do, and you live relatively close to Janeway3. Have you seen Venus lately?
Image
Image
Here is a picture of Jupiter and a picture of Venus. In the picture of Jupiter, you can see a small round thing to the left of it. The small round thing is actually the Earth! No, the Earth isn't close to Jupiter at all, but the picture compares the size of Jupiter with the size of the Earth. You can see how big Jupiter is. Venus, on the other hand, is about the same size as the Earth.

If Jupiter is so much bigger than Venus, why is it that Venus can look even brighter than Jupiter in the Earth's sky? It is because Venus is much closer to the Earth than Jupiter is.

In a telescope, Jupiter will always look striped. Venus will always look just white. But interestingly, Venus will show "phases" just like the Moon! In the picture I have posted here, Venus is "gibbous". But there can be a "half Venus" and a "crescent Venus", too. Of course Venus can also be "full". The reason why Venus shows phases is because it is closer to the Sun than the Earth is.
Here you can see a picture of our solar system. Please note that the picture is not at all to scale. The Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and Venus is the second planet from the Sun. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun. You can see that Jupiter is bigger than the Earth, but the difference in size should have been much greater. You can also see that Venus is about the same size as the Earth. Venus looks orange here, but it never looks orange in the sky, unless it is very low in the sky and strongly reddened. Venus can become orange when it sets, just like the Sun can be orange when it sets.

But the picture makes you think that the planets are close together. That is not so. The planets are really far apart.

In the picture, you can see a small planet between the Earth and Jupiter. That planet is, as you can see, Mars. In the picture it looks as if Mars and Jupiter are really close together. But in reality, there is a huge "gap" between Mars and Jupiter.

So in short, Venus is the same size as the Earth, its color is white, and it is relatively close to us. Therefore Venus can be the third brightest light in the sky, after the Sun and the Moon. But we can't always see Venus, because we have to look "in the direction of the Sun" to see it, and sometimes Venus is just too close to the Sun to be seen.

Jupiter is rather far away, but it is very big. We can often see it very well. Jupiter can be the fourth brightest light in the sky, after the Sun, the Moon and Venus.

Like starstruck said, welcome to this forum! :D

Ann
Last edited by Ann on Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
Color Commentator

User avatar
starstruck
Science Officer
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:37 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by starstruck » Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:33 am

Nice post Ann!, as always, clear and informative :)

No, unfortunately I have not managed to see Venus yet . . . tried, even last night, when the sky cleared, but failed so far!

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15321
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:42 pm

starstruck wrote:Nice post Ann!, as always, clear and informative :)

No, unfortunately I have not managed to see Venus yet . . . tried, even last night, when the sky cleared, but failed so far!
It is impossible to miss on any clear evening shortly after sunset. Right now at that time, you have the extremely bright Venus in the west, and the extremely bright Jupiter (just past opposition) in the east. A pretty pair.

Venus is moving away from the Sun (from our viewpoint), rising higher in the western sky each night. For the next few months it will dominate the sky in the first hours of darkness, and will be bright enough to cast shadows.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:58 pm

Janeway 3 here. Starstruck, You said I could see Jupiter through binocs. I went ratching through the cupboards and found our very large set and pointed them at what you said was Jupiter. O.M.G. I was gobsmacked. Now then,I did say I was a complete amateur at this star gazing lark but what I saw through the binocs. completely threw me. Please don,t laugh when I tell you this. I saw the planet like you said and it was covered with what looked like craters. Is this what I was supposed to see,and if so,I can,t tell you how excited I was and still am about what I saw. It was difficult keeping the binocs steady,but that is the only way I can describe how it looks. Must ratch out the trypod and set it up.
Thanks to all you people on the forum for your input. Could anyone recomend a book for complete beginners on stargazing. I would like to start with learning about the constellations,,,,,see,,, I told you I was an amateur
This must be getting to me because I watched Patrick Moore on" The sky at night " last night. Very interesting. A bit above my head but interesting just the same. :oops:

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15321
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:23 pm

Janeway3 wrote:I saw the planet like you said and it was covered with what looked like craters. Is this what I was supposed to see,and if so,I can,t tell you how excited I was and still am about what I saw.
Nope- no craters on Jupiter! Are you sure you had the binoculars focused properly? Because if you look at Jupiter (or even a bright star) with the focus out, it gets a lot bigger, and you can see spots and things that might look like craters caused by dust and imperfections inside the binoculars themselves.

Jupiter through binoculars should just look like a bright spot, usually with four little "stars" lined up next to it (the Galilean moons). A careful observer might just make out a pair of darker bands crossing the face of the planet, but no more detail than that.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 10820
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Ann » Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:08 am

Janeway3, you wanted to know some constellations. I thought I might post a few pictures of constellations here.
Image
You live in Great Britain, don't you? That means you live so far north that there is one very easy constellation that you can always see, on any clear night, all year round. That is the Big Dipper.

Okay... the Big Dipper isn't technically a constellation, because it is just part of a large constellation called Ursa Major, the Great Bear. But seriously, Janeway3, you're a beginner. Forget about Ursa Major. Most of Ursa Major is faint, but the Big Dipper is bright and very noticeable.

By the way, I wonder if you have another name for the Big Dipper, seeing that you live in Great Britain. Starstruck, do you know if you have another name for this iconic star pattern in the northern sky? (In Sweden, where I live, we call it "Karlavagnen" - Charles' Wagon.)
Image
If you have found the Big Dipper, and that is easy, you can always find Polaris, the North star, too. Just follow the "pointers" of the Big Dipper until you come to Polaris.

As you can see from the two pictures here, the "orientation" of the Big Dipper in the sky is not always the same. You should try to learn the overall shape of it and be prepared for it to be "upside down", "right side up", "pointing to the left" or "pointing to the right".

But whatever the "orientation of the Big Dipper", the two pointer stars always point straight at Polaris.
Image
The second most noticeable constellation in the sky, at least if you live in Great Britain, is Orion. Take a look at the three stars that line up diagonally in the middle of the picture. These stars are the so called Orion's Belt, and they are very hard to miss. The bright yellowish star at upper left is called Betelgeuse, and the bright white or blue-white star at lower right is called Rigel.

But while you can see the Big Dipper on any clear night all year round, you can't always see Orion. In fact, you can only see it in the winter months, and now in December is an excellent time to see it in the evening at eight or nine o'clock. It will actually rise the highest in the evening sky in mid-February.

Let's return to the picture of Orion. Below Orion's Belt you can see another grouping of what looks like three stars, hanging "down" and pointing slightly "to the left". These three "stars" are called Orion's Sword. The middle of the three "stars" looks pink in the picture.
But the pink "star" is not a star at all, but a huge glowing cloud of hydrogen gas. The reason why the gas shines is because some very hot stars have just been born inside it, and their extremely brilliant ultraviolet light makes the gas glow red. However, this red color is invisible to human eyes.

If you go out at night you can easily see the Orion Nebula as a fuzzy spot in Orion's Sword, but the spot will never look red or pink to you.
Now I'm going to show you a picture of a very large part of the sky. You can see many constellations in this picture.

Let's try to find Orion first! Can you see three white or blue-white stars in a row? Look at center right of the picture. Can you see that there are three stars in a row there? They seem to be lined up vertically in this picture, but the orientation isn't so important. These three stars are Orion's Belt.

Now that you have found Orion's Belt, let's try to find Orion's Sword! Can you see that it is pointing "down and to the right" from Orion's Belt? And can you see that the middle part of Orion's Sword looks pink? That is the Orion Nebula.

Can you see a strikingly yellow-orange star close to the center of the picture, to the left of Orion's Belt? That is Betelgeuse, which also belongs to Orion. And can you see the bright white or blue-white star to the right of Orion's Belt in this picture? That is Rigel, the brightest star in Orion.

Speaking of bright, however, the brightest star in the picture is Sirius. Follow Orion's Belt "straight down", and there it is. Sirius is the brightest-looking of all distant stars in the sky. There are four brighter lights in the sky, the Sun, the Moon, Venus and Jupiter, but no brighter distant star. But there is one brighter star than Sirius in the sky, and that is the Sun, of course. Because all stars are suns, so both the Sun and Sirius are stars.

Now locate yellow-orange Betelgeuse again and note that Sirius is to the lower right of it. But there is also a star to the lower left of Betelgeuse, and that star is Procyon. Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon are three bright and noticeable stars which form the shape of a triangle, and these three stars are sometimes called the Winter Triangle.

At center left in the image you can see two stars, one yellow-white and one blue-white. These stars are Pollux (the yellow-white one) and Castor (the blue-white one). These are the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, the Twins.
Pollux and Castor are near the center in the picture at left. At lower right you can see a blue star, Alhena, which is the third brightest star in the constellation Gemini. (Please note that practically all blue stars will look white to the naked eye.)

Note the very bright yellow-orange light in the lower right corner. That is Betelgeuse in Orion. Pollux, Alhena and Betelgeuse form a more or less straight line.

Look at the bright white star at upper right in the picture. That is Capella. Capella is sufficiently far to the north to be visible from Great Britain on every night of the year. Capella is the alpha star, the brightest star, of the handsome constellation Auriga. In the Akira Fuji picture above this one, you can see Capella and Auriga at upper left.

At upper right in the Akira Fuji picture, you can see two remarkable constellations, the Hyades and the Pleiades. They deserve a picture of their own.
Image
In this picture, the bright yellow star is Aldebaran. The group of stars to the right of Aldebaran is the Hyades.

To the upper right you can see a small, tight group of bluish stars. These are the Pleiades. The Pleiades can't be seen from Great Britain all year round, but now is a great time to see them. If you go out tonight at eight o'clock, the Pleiades will be high in the sky in the southeast. (If you have trouble finding them, remember that they should be to the right or upper right of Orion.)

The Pleiades look lovely indeed. Bring your binoculars, and they will look even better. Just look at all the little stars that will just pop out when you look at the Pleiades through a pair of binoculars!

The Pleiades may be the most famous stars in the heavens. They can be seen at some time of the year from practically all parts of the Earth. Many, many peoples and cultures have their own stories about the lovely Pleiades.

Finally, please check out this link. When you click on it, you will find an annotated image showing many of the constellations I have talked to you about, and you will see the names of the brightest stars written on the image. (Praesepe, which I haven't talked to you about, is a somewhat faint star cluster in the somewhat faint constellation of Cancer, the Crab.)

So, Janeway3, have a good time looking at the stars! Remember that December, January and Feburary are the best months of them all if you want to look at stars in Great Britain!

Ann
Color Commentator

TNT
Science Officer
Posts: 289
Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:57 am
Location: Heart of America

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by TNT » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:23 pm

Janeway3, I would like to point out a very good book that helped me a lot when I was starting out. It's called "Skywatching: Revised and Updated, the bestselling guide to understanding the night sky.", by David H. Levy, editor of Parade magazine and discoverer of comet Levy :shock: . It has information about the history of skywatching, the constellations, planets, skywatching tips, fantastic photos, and much more! Hopefully it will help you with your exploration of the night sky.

By the way, Ann, the Pleiades and Hyades are star clusters, not constellations.
The following statement is true.
The above statement is false.

Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:10 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
Janeway3 wrote:I saw the planet like you said and it was covered with what looked like craters. Is this what I was supposed to see,and if so,I can,t tell you how excited I was and still am about what I saw.
Nope- no craters on Jupiter! Are you sure you had the binoculars focused properly? Because if you look at Jupiter (or even a bright star) with the focus out, it gets a lot bigger, and you can see spots and things that might look like craters caused by dust and imperfections inside the binoculars themselves.

Jupiter through binoculars should just look like a bright spot, usually with four little "stars" lined up next to it (the Galilean moons). A careful observer might just make out a pair of darker bands crossing the face of the planet, but no more detail than that.
I was a bit dissappointed that I had not viewed Jupiter as I should,but I will still have another go at it. I,ll also give the old binocs a bit of a clean. Thank you for your input. Janeway3

Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:13 pm

Ann wrote:Janeway3, you wanted to know some constellations. I thought I might post a few pictures of constellations here.
Image
You live in Great Britain, don't you? That means you live so far north that there is one very easy constellation that you can always see, on any clear night, all year round. That is the Big Dipper.

Okay... the Big Dipper isn't technically a constellation, because it is just part of a large constellation called Ursa Major, the Great Bear. But seriously, Janeway3, you're a beginner. Forget about Ursa Major. Most of Ursa Major is faint, but the Big Dipper is bright and very noticeable.

By the way, I wonder if you have another name for the Big Dipper, seeing that you live in Great Britain. Starstruck, do you know if you have another name for this iconic star pattern in the northern sky? (In Sweden, where I live, we call it "Karlavagnen" - Charles' Wagon.)
Image
If you have found the Big Dipper, and that is easy, you can always find Polaris, the North star, too. Just follow the "pointers" of the Big Dipper until you come to Polaris.

Thank you so much for the fab pictures. I will be studying them for quite a while and trying to see them in the sky. I will certainly look for the book also. Janeway3

As you can see from the two pictures here, the "orientation" of the Big Dipper in the sky is not always the same. You should try to learn the overall shape of it and be prepared for it to be "upside down", "right side up", "pointing to the left" or "pointing to the right".

But whatever the "orientation of the Big Dipper", the two pointer stars always point straight at Polaris.
Image
The second most noticeable constellation in the sky, at least if you live in Great Britain, is Orion. Take a look at the three stars that line up diagonally in the middle of the picture. These stars are the so called Orion's Belt, and they are very hard to miss. The bright yellowish star at upper left is called Betelgeuse, and the bright white or blue-white star at lower right is called Rigel.

But while you can see the Big Dipper on any clear night all year round, you can't always see Orion. In fact, you can only see it in the winter months, and now in December is an excellent time to see it in the evening at eight or nine o'clock. It will actually rise the highest in the evening sky in mid-February.

Let's return to the picture of Orion. Below Orion's Belt you can see another grouping of what looks like three stars, hanging "down" and pointing slightly "to the left". These three "stars" are called Orion's Sword. The middle of the three "stars" looks pink in the picture.
But the pink "star" is not a star at all, but a huge glowing cloud of hydrogen gas. The reason why the gas shines is because some very hot stars have just been born inside it, and their extremely brilliant ultraviolet light makes the gas glow red. However, this red color is invisible to human eyes.

If you go out at night you can easily see the Orion Nebula as a fuzzy spot in Orion's Sword, but the spot will never look red or pink to you.
Now I'm going to show you a picture of a very large part of the sky. You can see many constellations in this picture.

Let's try to find Orion first! Can you see three white or blue-white stars in a row? Look at center right of the picture. Can you see that there are three stars in a row there? They seem to be lined up vertically in this picture, but the orientation isn't so important. These three stars are Orion's Belt.

Now that you have found Orion's Belt, let's try to find Orion's Sword! Can you see that it is pointing "down and to the right" from Orion's Belt? And can you see that the middle part of Orion's Sword looks pink? That is the Orion Nebula.

Can you see a strikingly yellow-orange star close to the center of the picture, to the left of Orion's Belt? That is Betelgeuse, which also belongs to Orion. And can you see the bright white or blue-white star to the right of Orion's Belt in this picture? That is Rigel, the brightest star in Orion.

Speaking of bright, however, the brightest star in the picture is Sirius. Follow Orion's Belt "straight down", and there it is. Sirius is the brightest-looking of all distant stars in the sky. There are four brighter lights in the sky, the Sun, the Moon, Venus and Jupiter, but no brighter distant star. But there is one brighter star than Sirius in the sky, and that is the Sun, of course. Because all stars are suns, so both the Sun and Sirius are stars.

Now locate yellow-orange Betelgeuse again and note that Sirius is to the lower right of it. But there is also a star to the lower left of Betelgeuse, and that star is Procyon. Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon are three bright and noticeable stars which form the shape of a triangle, and these three stars are sometimes called the Winter Triangle.

At center left in the image you can see two stars, one yellow-white and one blue-white. These stars are Pollux (the yellow-white one) and Castor (the blue-white one). These are the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, the Twins.
Pollux and Castor are near the center in the picture at left. At lower right you can see a blue star, Alhena, which is the third brightest star in the constellation Gemini. (Please note that practically all blue stars will look white to the naked eye.)

Note the very bright yellow-orange light in the lower right corner. That is Betelgeuse in Orion. Pollux, Alhena and Betelgeuse form a more or less straight line.

Look at the bright white star at upper right in the picture. That is Capella. Capella is sufficiently far to the north to be visible from Great Britain on every night of the year. Capella is the alpha star, the brightest star, of the handsome constellation Auriga. In the Akira Fuji picture above this one, you can see Capella and Auriga at upper left.

At upper right in the Akira Fuji picture, you can see two remarkable constellations, the Hyades and the Pleiades. They deserve a picture of their own.
Image
In this picture, the bright yellow star is Aldebaran. The group of stars to the right of Aldebaran is the Hyades.

To the upper right you can see a small, tight group of bluish stars. These are the Pleiades. The Pleiades can't be seen from Great Britain all year round, but now is a great time to see them. If you go out tonight at eight o'clock, the Pleiades will be high in the sky in the southeast. (If you have trouble finding them, remember that they should be to the right or upper right of Orion.)

The Pleiades look lovely indeed. Bring your binoculars, and they will look even better. Just look at all the little stars that will just pop out when you look at the Pleiades through a pair of binoculars!

The Pleiades may be the most famous stars in the heavens. They can be seen at some time of the year from practically all parts of the Earth. Many, many peoples and cultures have their own stories about the lovely Pleiades.

Finally, please check out this link. When you click on it, you will find an annotated image showing many of the constellations I have talked to you about, and you will see the names of the brightest stars written on the image. (Praesepe, which I haven't talked to you about, is a somewhat faint star cluster in the somewhat faint constellation of Cancer, the Crab.)

So, Janeway3, have a good time looking at the stars! Remember that December, January and Feburary are the best months of them all if you want to look at stars in Great Britain!

Ann

Janeway3
Asternaut
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Janeway3 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:33 pm

Janeway3 here. Thank you for the wonderful pictures. It will probably take me some time to get to grips with them but I will keep studying them and slowly things will sink in. There is a lot of cloud about where I live so not a lot of skygazing is getting done,but I look forward to trying to find the big dipper and Orion next time it,s a clear night. Thanks again for the pictures. :lol:

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15321
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:04 pm

Janeway3 wrote:I was a bit dissappointed that I had not viewed Jupiter as I should,but I will still have another go at it. I,ll also give the old binocs a bit of a clean.
Nothing wrong with keeping optics clean, of course, but dirt on the objectives or eyepieces won't show up when you are viewing unless the binoculars are badly out of focus. Otherwise, all dirty lenses do is reduce the total contrast a bit. With old binoculars, there is probably a lot of dirt inside, where you can't easily get to it. But again, it won't have much impact on the quality of your views.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 10820
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Ann » Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:37 pm

Janeway3 wrote:Janeway3 here. Thank you for the wonderful pictures. It will probably take me some time to get to grips with them but I will keep studying them and slowly things will sink in. There is a lot of cloud about where I live so not a lot of skygazing is getting done,but I look forward to trying to find the big dipper and Orion next time it,s a clear night. Thanks again for the pictures. :lol:
You're welcome, Janeway3! :D
I can't resist showing you one more constellation. Like the Big Dipper, it is so far to the north that it is always visible from Great Britain. Admittedly it is not quite so bright and obvious as the Big Dipper or Orion, but when you have memorized its "W" shape, the stellar outline is unmistakable. The constellation is called Cassiopeia, the Queen of the heavens.
Image



If you have trouble spotting the "W", here it is.









Image

In this picture, Cassiopeia is sort of "lying down". But the "W" shape has been drawn for you on the picture.

I can't remember ever seeing Cassiopeia upside down, but I hear it can look like an "M", too. When it looks like an "M", some people call it the the McDonald's in the sky!




Let me post one more picture of Cassiopeia in the sky. As I said, the constellation isn't so very bright, but it really is the only "W" in the sky!









Ann
Last edited by Ann on Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Color Commentator

User avatar
BMAONE23
Commentator Model 1.23
Posts: 4076
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:55 pm
Location: California

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by BMAONE23 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:56 pm

If you take the outer most stars in the "W" and, using the orangish star as a pointer, travel the distance covered by the outer stars in the direction the orange star points, you will find the Andromeda Galaxy.
Also visible in Ann's 1st image of the "W"

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 10820
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Ann » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:47 pm

I find that I want to post one more picture of Cassiopeia. This is really a picture of the constellation Draco, but you can forget about Draco, because it is faint.

Instead, take a look at the Big Dipper, and note how the pointer stars point at Polaris, the star that you can see pretty much in the middle of the picture. Polaris is the brightest star of the constellation Ursa MInor, The Small Bear.

And please note Cassiopeia at far right in this picture! Also note that Cassiopeia "is on the opposite side of Polaris", compared with the Big Dipper. So if you follow the pointer stars in the Big Dipper so that you come to Polaris, just continue in the same direction, and you will come to Cassiopeia!

By the way, I just checked where Cassiopeia would be at 8 p.m. tonight. Would you believe it would be pretty much "straight up", so that you couldn't watch it for very long without developing a crick in your neck?

Ann
Color Commentator

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 10820
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: A new skywatcher

Post by Ann » Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:12 am

Okay, I'm back again. I easily get enthusiastic about this, as you can see, Janeway3!

Well, BMAONE123 mentioned the Andromeda Galaxy. And he was right to mention it, because it is one of the great sights in the sky. But I would say that you need relatively clear and dark skies and a pair of binoculars.
One of my own greatest astronomical experiences was finding the Andromeda Galaxy for the first time, back when I was fifteen years old (a long time ago).

Finding the Andromeda Galaxy wasn't easy. It was located pretty much "straight up" at that particular time, and my neck started hurting and my arms got tired and shaky holding my binoculars. So I got myself a blanket, spread it on the snow - it was winter - and lay down. Now I could hold my binoculars steady, and after a while I found the galaxy. It looked almost exactly like it does in the picture here.

What was so amazing about seeing the Andromeda Galaxy was that it looked so completely different from the stars. The stars were sharp, brilliant points of mostly white or blue-white light. Andromeda was fuzzy, extended and yellowish. But I must warn you that Andromeda has never looked yellowish to me again after that first time, so you shouldn't expect it to look yellow to you.
But there is a lot more to the Andromeda Galaxy than meets the eye when you look at it through a pair of binoculars. In this picture you can see that the galaxy has a yellow central part. That is the so-called bulge, and it is full of old stars, most of them older and often smaller than the Sun. (A comparatively small number of them are swollen "red giants.") These stars are really yellow in color, yellower than the Sun. The yellow bulge is the brightest part of the galaxy, and it is the only part of the galaxy that you can hope to see through a pair of binoculars. Outside the bulge are the blue spiral arms.

The really amazing thing about the Andromeda Galaxy is that it contains several hundred billion stars. We can be sure that it contains several hundred billion planets, too. Is there life in the Andromeda Galaxy? Yes, if you believe that life is not incredibly rare in the universe - and most astronomers believe that life is moderately common - then there simply must be life somewhere inside the Andromeda Galaxy. More likely, there are millions of planets that are habitats of life in the Andromeda Galaxy. But the jury is out on whether it is likely that there are many, or any, advanced technological civilizations - like our own or better - in the Andromeda Galaxy.
So how do you find the Andromeda Galaxy? BMAONE123 suggested that you should start from Cassiopeia. Myself, I prefer to start from the Great Square of Pegasus.

In this map, you can see the Great Square of Pegasus at lower right. You can see that two stars inside it are labeled "α". That is the Greek letter for "alpha", and when you talk about stars, "alpha" usually means the brightest star in a constellation. But there can never be two widely separated alpha stars in a single constellation. The explanation for this is that the upper left "α" star in the Great Square of Pegasus no longer officially belongs to the constellation Pegasus, but instead it officially belongs to the constellation Andromeda to the left of Pegasus!

To find the Andromeda Galaxy, you should start from this star in the upper left corner of the Great Square of Pegasus, also known as Alpha Andromeda. From there you should "hop" to the left, to the star marked with a "δ", which is the Greek letter "delta". The star marked with a "δ" in the constellation Andromeda (and you are in the constellation Andromeda now) is the star Delta Andromeda.

So you just "hopped" from the upper left star in the Great Square of Pegasus to the star called Delta Andromeda. Now you should hop left again, to the star marked with a "β", which is the Greek letter Beta. The star is Beta Andromeda.

So you have just "hopped" left from Alpha Andromeda to Delta Andromeda to Beta Andromeda. I always count as I "hop" these three steps: One, two, three.

But when you come to Beta Andromeda, you should stop moving left. Now you have to "hop" upwards instead. Make Beta Andromeda your new starting point. The first star you will come to as you hop "up" is the star marked with a "µ", which is the Greek letter "mu". The star is Mu Andromeda.

Now you have to hop up once again. You will come to the star marked with a "ν", which is the Greek letter "nu". The star is Nu Andromeda.

So you have just "hopped from Beta to Mu to Nu Andromeda. Again you should count "One, two, three" as you "hop".

And if you do this while you are looking at the sky with with your binoculars, then the Andromeda Galaxy, marked M31 on the map, will "pop into" your field of view as soon as you locate Nu Andromeda.
Image
Take a look at this photo of the constellations Pegasus and Andromeda. (Cassiopeia is there too, near the top.)

You can see the Great Square of Pegasus at bottom right. Three of the stars of the Great Square look blue in this photo, and one, the one to the upper right, looks yellow. Start from the blue star at upper left - it will look white to your eyes - and move left, first to Delta and then to Beta Andromeda. Stop and start again from Beta Andromeda, but move up this time first to Mu and then to Nu. And there you have it, right next to Nu, the Andromeda Galaxy.

Ann
Color Commentator