Monthly Archives: March 2012

Moon between Procyon and Gemini

Moon between Procyon And Gemini

Hey, Do you see the moon tonite. Isn’t it beautiful?  So what are these stars nearby? Or are they planets? The whole week it had been  raining. But now, though the sporadic showers we can have  a beautiful sky tonight.

Tonight at 11:00 p.m ( local Mauritian Time), in our sky the moon which is in its waxing gibbous phase, is between three stars. The star above the moon is Procyon. Procyon is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor (the small Dog). And below the moon we have two stars Castor and Pollux. These two stars are in the constellation Gemini (the Twins).

Towards the West, you can have a look at Sirius, the brightest star in our skies. Sirius is in the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog). And towards North West you would have to raise your head to see Mars , a bright looking yellow star in the constellation Leo. Though as I said Mars looks like a star but is not. It’s a planet. So have a look before it starts raining cats and dogs again.

Did you know that in the Southern Hemisphere, the moon passes between the Gemini stars and Procyon once a month? And people living in the Northern Hemisphere will see the moon, Gemini stars, and Procyon in their southern evening sky. They’ll see the scene “upside down,” with Procyon shining below the moon, and Castor and Pollux above the moon?

Night sky scene in the northern hemisphere

You still don’t understand? Ok, just do the up-stand position in front of the night sky, you would get the “upside down” scene.

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Asterisms : What? and List

Looking up and finding patterns in the stars is a pastime that’s as old as humanity. The constellations are rich with mythology that has been passed on for millennia.

The name for these unofficial constellations is “asterism.” Like constellations, asterisms have a long history. Some are regional, (this particular asterism list  is from Germany) while others are universally recognized. Some are ancient, while others are more modern. If you enjoy stargazing, you may even have a few of your own personal asterisms. So go and be creative in the night sky and have fun.

If you are willing to find these asterisms, my advice would be to use Stellarium, if you still haven’t downloaded it, go grab it for free. you just have to type in the stars names in the Search field, for example: “delta Ori”,”epsilon Ori” and “zeta Ori”. And then you could be able to identify the asterism”the belt of Orion”. Pretty easy, huh!


Table of Asterisms:

Beehive

Located in the constellation Cancer. It is an open star cluster, which is also called Praesepe or M44 and faintly visible to the naked eye.
With the stars gamma Can and delta Can it forms another asterisms called the Asses and the Manger.

Belt of Orion

is being formed by the stars delta Ori, epsilon Ori and zeta Ori; in Latin Amerika it is called the “Three Marys”.

Bier

is being built by the four stars alpha UMa, beta UMa, gamma UMa and delta UMa.

 

Big Dipper

most famous asterism. Formed by the following Stars of the Great Bear alpha UMa, beta UMa, gamma UMa, delta UMa, epsilon UMa, zeta UMa and eta UMa, it is often called “Wain” (Wagon) or “Charles’s Wain” because of its resemblance with it when the Dipper handle is thought to be the wagon tongue.

 

Bull of Poniatowski

A T-shaped asterism just east of gamma Oph; it is formed by the stars 66 Oph, 67 Oph, 68 Oph and 70 Oph

Circlet

the western fish; the circlet is formed by gamma Psc, b Psc, theta Psc, iota Psc, 19 Psc, lambda Psc and kappa Psc.

Coalsack

Actually this is not a true asterism, but a dark patch on the Milky Way, in the constellation Crux. By the African Bushmen it was called “Old Bag”.

Frederick’s Glory

is formed by iota And, kappa And, lambda And and psi And

Guardians of the Pole

just beta UMi and gamma UMi

Head of Cetus

presented by alpha Cet, gamma Cet, xi_2 Cet, mu Cet and lambda Cet

Heavenly G

nine bright stars forming a G-shaped group. Seven of these stars are of 1st magnitude. In order they are: Aldebaran (alpha Tau), Capella (alpha Aur), Castor (alpha Gem), Pollux (beta Gem), Procyon (alpha CMi), Sirius (alpha CMa), Rigel (beta Ori), Bellatrix (gamma Ori) and Betelgeuse (alpha Ori)

Hyades

open cluster; V-shaped group superposed on alpha Tau, gamma Tau, delta Tau and epsilon Tau

Hydra Head

build by delta Hya, epsilon Hya, zeta Hya, eta Hya, rho Hya and sigma Hya

Job’s Coffin

formed by the four stars alpha Del, beta Del, gamma Del and delta Del

Keystone

is formed by the epsilon Her, zeta Her, eta Her and pi Her

Kids

are called epsilon Aur, zeta Aur and eta Aur

Lozenge

build by the four stars beta Dra, gamma Dra, xi Dra and nu Dra

Milk Dipper

The following five members of the constallation Sagittarius can be interpreted as an inverted dipper in the Milky Way: zeta Sgr, tau Sgr, sigma Sgr, phi Sgr and lambda Sgr. This asterism is also known as The Teapot.

Northern Cross

is formed by the leading stars of the constellation Cygnus: alpha Cyg, beta Cyg, gamma Cyg, delta Cyg and epsilon Cyg

Northern Fly

This is a small triangle over the rear of Aries

Pleiades

Located in the constellation Taurus. This open star cluster is one of the Messier objects, M45. It also known as Seven Sisters or, in Latin America the Seven Little Goats

Segment of Perseus

the stars eta Per, gamma Per, alpha Per, delta Per, epsilon Per and zeta Per forming an arc.

Sickle

formed by alpha Leo, eta Leo, gamma Leo, zeta Leo, mu Leo and epsilon Leo

Square of Pegasus

At the edges of that square you find alpa Peg, beta Peg, gamma Peg and alpha And

Sword of Orion

theta Ori and iota Ori; between them the famous Orion Nebula (M42) is located.

Venus Mirror

also on Orion; the belt stars (delta Ori, epsilon Ori and zeta Ori), the sword and eta Ori build up this asterism. The sword forms the handle of the diamond-shaped mirror.

Y of Aquarius

also called Water Jar; the Y is build by gamma Aqr, eta Aqr, pi Aqr and zeta Aqr

Global Astronomy Month 2012 : Programme Schedule

AWB is planning a rich schedule of programs and events for Global Astronomy Month 2012 (GAM2012), all designed to inform and inspire the public throughout the world. Below is a sampling of some major events listed by date but there is much more to come soon. For more information on each program, click on the highlighted links.

Date / Time Program
23 March to 27 April IASC Asteroid Search Campaign
1 April SunDay
1 April Online Messier Marathon (remote observing event)
1 to 7 April Lunar Week
1 to 22 April International Earth and Sky Photo Contest
7 to 8 April In the Interstices of Life (astroart video presentation)
8 April Bats & Radio Astronomy (live presentation)
11 to 20 April Globe at Night
12 April Yuri’s Night
14 to 15 April Spiral Galaxy (video presentation)
14 to 20 April International Dark Skies Week
15 April Saturn Watch (Beauty without Borders)
15 April Around the Ringed Planet (remote observing event)
19 April Cosmic Depths (remote observing event)
20 April World Night in Defence of the Starlight
21 April (deadline) Celebrate Starlight
21 to 22 April Lyrids Watch (Meteors without Borders)
21 to 22 April Neurostar (astroart video presentation)
27 April Walking on the Moon (remote observing event)
28 April Global Star Party
28 April Stars for All (remote observing event)
28 April Opticks (live moonbounce event)
29 April Cosmic Concert (live musical concert)
30 April Write Your Name in The Sky (remote observing event)
Throughout April One Star at a Time – Fight Light Pollution
Throughout April Astropoetry Contest for GAM2012
Throughout April Programs for Planetariums
Throughout April Programs for People with Disabilities
Throughout April 30 Nights of Star Peace
Throughout April MicroObservatory Astrophotography Contest
Throughout April Olympicosmopoetriada for GAM2012
Throughout April The Sky in Your Hands

Constellations: Official List

The Constellations Table :A complete table with information about all the 88 Constellations as defined by the I.A.U. ( International Astronomical Union ). Abbreviations, Genitive and Latin Names, English Names and more.FIELD LIST

ABBREV : IAU abbreviation
CONSTELLATION : latin name
GENITIVE : latin genitive ( possessive )
ENGLISH NAME : english translation
AREA : constellation size or area, in square degrees
HEM : position in the celestial sphere :
NH – northern celestial hemisphere – declination between 0° and +90°
SH – southern celestial hemisphere – declination between 0° and – 90°
ALPHA STAR : proper name of the alpha star.

ALPHABETICAL ORDER

Cosmobrain’s Constellation Table

No. Abbrev. Constellation Genitive English Name

Area

Hem.

Alpha Star

1

And

Andromeda Andromedae Andromeda

722

NH

Alpheratz

2

Ant

Antlia Antliae Air Pump

239

SH

3

Aps

Apus Apodis Bird of Paradise

206

SH

4

Aqr

Aquarius Aquarii Water Carrier

980

SH

Sadalmelik

5

Aql

Aquila Aquilae Eagle

652

NH-SH

Altair

6

Ara

Ara Arae Altar

237

SH

7

Ari

Aries Arietis Ram

441

NH

Hamal

8

Aur

Auriga Aurigae Charioteer

657

NH

Capella

9

Boo

Bootes Bootis Herdsman

907

NH

Arcturus

10

Cae

Caelum Caeli Chisel

125

SH

11

Cam

Camelopardalis Camelopardalis Giraffe

757

NH

12

Cnc

Cancer Cancri Crab

506

NH

Acubens

13

CVn

Canes Venatici Canun Venaticorum Hunting Dogs

465

NH

Cor Caroli

14

CMa

Canis Major Canis Majoris Big Dog

380

SH

Sirius

15

CMi

Canis Minor Canis Minoris Little Dog

183

NH

Procyon

16

Cap

Capricornus Capricorni Goat ( Capricorn )

414

SH

Algedi

17

Car

Carina Carinae Keel

494

SH

Canopus

18

Cas

Cassiopeia Cassiopeiae Cassiopeia

598

NH

Schedar

19

Cen

Centaurus Centauri Centaur

1060

SH

Rigil Kentaurus

20

Cep

Cepheus Cephei Cepheus

588

SH

Alderamin

21

Cet

Cetus Ceti Whale

1231

SH

Menkar

22

Cha

Chamaleon Chamaleontis Chameleon

132

SH

23

Cir

Circinus Circini Compasses

93

SH

24

Col

Columba Columbae Dove

270

SH

Phact

25

Com

Coma Berenices Comae Berenices Berenice’s Hair

386

NH

Diadem

26

CrA

Corona Australis Coronae Australis Southern Crown

128

SH

27

CrB

Corona Borealis Coronae Borealis Northern Crown

179

NH

Alphecca

28

Crv

Corvus Corvi Crow

184

SH

Alchiba

29

Crt

Crater Crateris Cup

282

SH

Alkes

30

Cru

Crux Crucis Southern Cross

68

SH

Acrux

31

Cyg

Cygnus Cygni Swan

804

NH

Deneb

32

Del

Delphinus Delphini Dolphin

189

NH

Sualocin

33

Dor

Dorado Doradus Goldfish

179

SH

34

Dra

Draco Draconis Dragon

1083

NH

Thuban

35

Equ

Equuleus Equulei Little Horse

72

NH

Kitalpha

36

Eri

Eridanus Eridani River

1138

SH

Achernar

37

For

Fornax Fornacis Furnace

398

SH

38

Gem

Gemini Geminorum Twins

514

NH

Castor

39

Gru

Grus Gruis Crane

366

SH

Al Na’ir

40

Her

Hercules Herculis Hercules

1225

NH

Rasalgethi

41

Hor

Horologium Horologii Clock

249

SH

42

Hya

Hydra Hydrae Hydra ( Sea Serpent )

1303

SH

Alphard

43

Hyi

Hydrus Hydri Water Serpen ( male )

243

SH

44

Ind

Indus Indi Indian

294

SH

45

Lac

Lacerta Lacertae Lizard

201

NH

46

Leo

Leo Leonis Lion

947

NH

Regulus

47

LMi

Leo Minor Leonis Minoris Smaller Lion

232

NH

48

Lep

Lepus Leporis Hare

290

SH

Arneb

49

Lib

Libra Librae Balance

538

SH

Zubenelgenubi

50

Lup

Lupus Lupi Wolf

334

SH

Men

51

Lyn

Lynx Lyncis Lynx

545

NH

52

Lyr

Lyra Lyrae Lyre

286

NH

Vega

53

Men

Mensa Mensae Table

153

SH

54

Mic

Microscopium Microscopii Microscope

210

SH

55

Mon

Monoceros Monocerotis Unicorn

482

SH

56

Mus

Musca Muscae Fly

138

SH

57

Nor

Norma Normae Square

165

SH

58

Oct

Octans Octantis Octant

291

SH

59

Oph

Ophiucus Ophiuchi Serpent Holder

948

NH-SH

Rasalhague

60

Ori

Orion Orionis Orion

594

NH-SH

Betelgeuse

61

Pav

Pavo Pavonis Peacock

378

SH

Peacock

62

Peg

Pegasus Pegasi Winged Horse

1121

NH

Markab

63

Per

Perseus Persei Perseus

615

NH

Mirfak

64

Phe

Phoenix Phoenicis Phoenix

469

SH

Ankaa

65

Pic

Pictor Pictoris Easel

247

SH

66

Psc

Pisces Piscium Fishes

889

NH

Alrischa

67

PsA

Pisces Austrinus Pisces Austrini Southern Fish

245

SH

Fomalhaut

68

Pup

Puppis Puppis Stern

673

SH

69

Pyx

Pyxis Pyxidis Compass

221

SH

70

Ret

Reticulum Reticuli Reticle

114

SH

71

Sge

Sagitta Sagittae Arrow

80

NH

72

Sgr

Sagittarius Sagittarii Archer

867

SH

Rukbat

73

Sco

Scorpius Scorpii Scorpion

497

SH

Antares

74

Scl

Sculptor Sculptoris Sculptor

475

SH

75

Sct

Scutum Scuti Shield

109

SH

76

Ser

Serpens Serpentis Serpent

637

NH-SH

Unuck al Hai

77

Sex

Sextans Sextantis Sextant

314

SH

78

Tau

Taurus Tauri Bull

797

NH

Aldebaran

79

Tel

Telescopium Telescopii Telescope

252

SH

80

Tri

Triangulum Trianguli Triangle

132

NH

Ras al Mothallah

81

TrA

Triangulum Australe Trianguli Australis Southern Triangle

110

SH

Atria

82

Tuc

Tucana Tucanae Toucan

295

SH

83

UMa

Ursa Major Ursae Majoris Great Bear

1280

NH

Dubhe

84

UMi

Ursa Minor Ursae Minoris Little Bear

256

NH

Polaris

85

Vel

Vela Velorum Sails

500

SH

86

Vir

Virgo Virginis Virgin

1294

NH-SH

Spica

87

Vol

Volans Volantis Flying Fish

141

SH

88

Vul

Vulpecula Vulpeculae Fox

268

NH

BY EDUARDO SOARES

©Cosmobrain.com 2001 – All Rights Reserved.

Credits : http://www.cosmobrain.com/cosmobrain/res/constellations.html

The 2012 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance

The 2012 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance

The Global Astronomy Month in April 2012 brings the 3rd International Earth and Sky Photo Contest. Coordinated by TWAN the contest is open to anyone of any age, anywhere around the world.

From now through Earth Day, April 22, an on-line “Earth and Sky” photo contest is open for submission by any photography enthusiasts of any age from around the world. International projects The World at Night and Global Astronomy Month along with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are the organizers of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to an international effort in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy. In 2011 participants from over 30 countries submitted a wonderful collection of nightscape images. The contest news was broadcasted by major science news media world-wide and the winning images were widely promoted this way. With the growing efforts of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), the organization behind the Global Astronomy Month, the Earth and Sky Photo Contest will have an even larger feedback this year.

Submitted photographs must be created in the “TWAN style” — showing both the Earth and the sky — by combining elements of the night sky (e.g., stars, planets, the Moon or celestial events) set against the backdrop of a beautiful, historic, or notable location or landmark. This style of photography is called “landscape astrophotography”. This is similar to general “Nightscape Photography” but with more attention to the sky, astronomical perspectives, and celestial phenomena.

The contest theme, “Dark Skies Importance,” has two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” Photos submitted to the contest should aim to address either category: either to impress people on how important and amazing the starry sky is or to impress people on how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Both categories illustrate how light pollution affects our lives. Photographers can submit images to one or both categories. The contest organizers encourage participants to view examples of such photos by the winners in the previous years: the 2011 winners, the 2010 winners, and other notable photos of 2010.
Winners this year will be announced by the end of April, to celebrate the end of GAM 2012.

Prizes
A wide range of prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in both categories will be awarded. The prizes could include (as last years) telescope and camera mounts, telescopes, binoculars, astrophotography accessories, filters and gift certificates. The contest organizers wish to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT), Canadian Telescopes, Vixen Optics, and Sky&Telescope magazine in obtaining some of the prizes. More information about the prizes and supporting companies will appear on this page soon.

Guidelines
Each entry must comply with the following requirements.

1- Size and format:
– Only photographs in digital format may be submitted. Photographs taken using film must be digitized for submission. Scanned prints may also be submitted.
– All entries must be accompanied by a short caption.
– Photographs must be submitted as high-quality JPEG files (level 10–12). The preferred color spaces are Adobe RGB (1998) and sRGB IEC61966-2.1. Contestants are strongly encouraged to use color management and to use one of these color spaces for their submitted images.
– Submitted photographs should be no larger than 1600 pixels across in their wide dimension and not smaller than 1200 pixels long. File size should be no larger than 2 Megabytes. Judges might request high-resolution files from finalists for final evaluation.

2- Number of submissions:
– No more than 5 photographs may be submitted per person. If the contestant submits more images, only 5 of them will be randomly selected. So extra submissions might result in removing your better images.
– Each contestant will be registered through the submission page and can edit profile and content, and add or remove their submitted images until the contest deadline.

3- Date of Photographs and Submissions:
– The contest highlights the recent efforts of landscape astrophotogtraphy. Images must be taken since January 1, 2011. Photographs taken before January 1, 2011 are ineligible.
– Photographs must be submitted from April 1 to the Earth Day, April 22, 2012. Winners will be announced by April 30, 2012.

4- Style and subject of the photos:
– Entries must combine elements of both Earth and Night Sky—i.e., landscape astrophotography.
– Entries must follow the contest theme of dark skies importance with displaying the beauties of starry skies or the problem of increasing light pollution.
– A pair or a series of comparing images to display the difference between dark and light polluted sky can be submitted as one entry. The comparing images can make strong public impression on importance of dark skies. See a TWAN example of such images here.
– Photographs may be taken through a telescope, but must combine Earth and Sky composed in the same photograph. Photographs taken through a telescope that show only the sky are ineligible.

5- Originality, image processing, and composite images:
– Minor burning, dodging, color and exposure correction is acceptable. Cropping is acceptable. Fish-eye lenses are acceptable. High dynamic range images and stitched panoramas are acceptable only if the combined parts are taken at approximately the same time and with the same setting. Digital composition of a series of photographs taken successively at the same location with the same lens pointed in the same direction, for example to create a digital star trail image, is acceptable. Any other changes to the original photograph not mentioned here are not acceptable, and will render the submitted photo ineligible for a prize.
– Composite images made by combining images taken at different locations, different times, or using different lenses are ineligible.

6- Copyright and legal notes:
– The submitted photo must be the original work of the contest entrant. The entrant must be the copyright holder of the submitted photo.
– The Photographer retains complete copyright, but agrees to have his/her photograph published on TWAN website and on other online media together with the report about the contest results.
– Model releases will be required for all winning photographs that contain a person in the image.
– Submitted photographs must not contain provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit or otherwise objectionable content. Entries may only be submitted on-line. Submitted photographs will be judged by a panel of TWAN photographers based on creativity, relevance to the topic, and aesthetic beauty. Contest prizes will be announced later this month. You can contact us for any further inquiry related to the contest.

 Submission Opens on April 1, 2012

Courtesy: http://www.twanight.org/newTWAN/news.asp?newsID=6069

Let’s capture immemorable moments….Give me a shout if you’re participating.

Eyes on the Sky: March 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 27 thru Mar 4

Ecliptic Occultation

The Moon occasionally occults – or covers – stars and/or planets from our point of view, on it’s journey around the Earth.  This week, on the night of the 1st into the morning of the 2nd, observers in northern sections of North America over towards Greenland may be able to spot this event.  If you are not sure if you will be able to see it, download the software Stellarium and input your location and local time.  For some, the Moon may have set by the time the occultation occurs; for those that can see the Moon and star but not the Moon covering it, watch how fast the Moon moves by the star through a telescope, if possible.

Also this week: Mars reaches opposition on the 3rd, and will get smaller as the Earth revolves faster around the Sun.  Nearby to the Red Planet are several brighter Messier galaxies in Leo the Lion, worth checking out in medium or larger telescopes.  Also discussed: Where to spot Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn this week.

Eyes on the Sky: Mar 5 thru Mar 11

Jupiter and Venus snuggle up

This week, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Jupiter and Venus, get closer each day until they reach conjunction early next week.  Watch this planetary pile-up over the next few days, and later in the week, spot both planets in the same field of view with binoculars.  As an added bonus, the speedy Mercury reaches it’s highest point above the horizon early in the week, making it an easy spot below the two brighter planets at evening twilight.

Also this week: The Moon moves by Mars early in the week, and sidles up to Saturn by Saturday; look for this to occur around midnight towards the south.  See the video for details.

Eyes on the Sky: March 12 thru March 18

Mars crashes the Messier party

The galaxies M95, M96 and M105 in Leo are far enough away from bright, easy-to-find stars that they can be a bit of a challenge to find. But this week, Mars literally passes right through their midst, and at magnitude -1 (brighter than most every star in the sky), it makes it a cinch to find them. Also, Jupiter and Venus are dancing past each other in the western, evening sky, unmistakably bright in some dimmer constellations. Look a bit towards the north though, and spot the constellation Perseus, with it’s treasure trove of open clusters visible in binoculars and small telescopes. And last but not least, Saturn has easily cleared the horizon well before midnight, so not is an ideal time to set your sights on the ringed planet.

Eyes on the Sky: March 19 thru March 25

Venturing through the Virgo galaxy cluster / catching a comet

The Virgo galaxy cluster is a “must-see” area of sky for any amateur astronomer looking to conduct a Messier marathon, which are popular to attempt around this time of year.  “Eyes on the Sky” points towards the “jump off point” to find several of these galaxies.  Swinging northward, Comet Garradd is still slowly making its way through our solar system, cruising past the pointer stars of the Big Dipper this week.  It is an easier target in a small, wide-field telescope, but can be spotted with binoculars in moderately light polluted areas with careful scanning.  Download and print this star chart from Sky and Telescope magazine to help you find the comet this week.

The star charts mentioned in the video:

  1.  Chart 11 :VIRGO, COMA BERENICES, CORVUS, SERPENS CAPUT
  2. Chart 11a: Close up of VIRGO galaxies

 

Eyes on the Sky: March 26 thru April 1

Venus near Nymphs / Spotlighting the “Leaps”

Though the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter is several weeks past, there will still plenty of fantastic views to in the western and southwestern evening sky this week thanks to those planets, the Moon and some nearby stars and open clusters.  And looking towards the north, an oft-overlooked section of the Big Bear gets some attention this week, offering up some interesting insights into stellar evolution, colors and distance as the “Leaps” lead to luminous lights in the sky.

Eyes on the Sky: March 26 thru April 1

The Moon joins Venus in the sky, then Venus joins the Pleiades, and the whole sky looks fantastic by the 28th. Then turn northeast/overhead to the Big Bear, Ursa Major, where 3 sets of stars make tracks in the sky – and not from bearprints, either! The lovely colors of Tania Borealis and Tania Australis are the highlight this week – easily visible in binoculars everywhere, and naked eye from most areas. Also, Mars continues retrograding in Leo towards Regulus and Saturn sidles up to Spica.

Constellations: Origins and Now

The sky is like a grid with lots of scattered dots.  Joined together they may take many a lot of forms, depending on the whims of the sky gazer. But with these groupings known as Constellations they have helped us a lot to discover the sky.

Before the advent of the T.V, internet or the recent social medias there was a time where people used to distract themselves by observing the sky.

The sky used to marvel their souls as it was a not a stagnant beauty but the moving of the stars on the celestial plane would be their night show. After having gone through a day of accomplishment like “yeah, I conquered Rome to-day”, looking to the sky, with all its wonders would humble their beings.

We should be full of chagrin that today we are not able to appreciate and contemplate on the night sky in our urban settings. Artificial lights, though beautifying our space have barred our view of the beautiful night sky. Urbanization has given us a great wonder of man-made lighting everywhere, making our nights to become days where never ending work (24/7) has become our norm.

But……there was a time, when people had “time” to look and observe the sky. So, they grouped the stars into constellations.

Where did these constellations originate?

“Constellations are groupings of stars that, to ancient peoples, were heavenly manifestations of known or imagined objects, creatures and beings. Constellations appeared at certain times of the year, returning to those same positions annually. The ancient stargazers ascribed significance to these observations. Though identifying constellations predates the Greeks and Romans, the 48 “classical” constellation names familiar to us come from those societies.” Courtesy http://www.ehow.com/

The Greeks were creative. In fact, the constellations even today are named after the mythical beings, shapes or creatures they honored or resembled in their minds. For example, the Orion constellation takes the form of a man wielding a club and wearing a belt and a sheath.  Taurus resembles a bull’s head. And Scorpio is the Scorpion which is going to harm the man in the Orion’s constellation.  We will back  with the creative stories of the Greeks in the constellations category.

The constellations were helpful for remembering the stars, but at that time where people having loads of time in their hands would attribute the sky to several other purposes. It is common story in astronomy that farmers of the past would know about the movement of the stars and constellations in order when to sow their crops and when to harvest.  Story tellers among the Greeks would use these constellations to relate about the exploits of their Gods. And strange enough, the Egyptians had aligned their pyramids in Giza to the Orion’s belt.  The three stars in the belt as Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.

Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka

The Arabs were the ones who preserved the astronomical science and augmented in the science so that the generations to come may take benefit from this extraordinary science. It is so interesting to know that the constellations were given Arabic names and even loads of stars got their names too. For example, In the Orion’s constellation Betelgeuse was previously yad-al-jawzaa, which later in my opinion became bad-al-jawzaa to Betelgeuse. Whereas Saiph the star, the bright star adjacent to Rigel, means The Sword. And Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka are Arabic too which are still called the same. Alnitak means ‘the girdle’ Alnilam, means ‘the string of pearls and Mintaka means ‘the belt’.

Then In the early twentienth century the constellations were put to an order and to the previously classical constellations other constellations were added up by  the International astronomical Union up to 88 constellations which is still in use to date. Thus the sky is now divided in these constellations, to help humanity in observing them.

“Originally the constellations were defined informally by the shapes made by their star patterns, but, as the pace of celestial discoveries quickened in the early 20th century, astronomers decided it would be helpful to have an official set of constellation boundaries. One reason was to aid in the naming of new variable stars, which brighten and fade rather than shine steadily. Such stars are named for the constellation in which they reside, so it is important to agree where one constellation ends and the next begins.”  Courtesy http://www.iau.org/public/constellations/

Obviously, these stars do not have boundaries or lines to join them when we look at them in the sky, but with the game of joining the dots, we are able to make up the lines and identify the constellations.

Further division was given to the constellations by forming patterns known as Asterisms. Well-known “constellations” such as the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, the Teapot, the Northern Cross, and the Summer Triangle are not among the official list. Some, like the Dippers and the Teapot, are actually parts of other constellations (the Big Dipper, or the great bear is part of Ursa Major, the Little Dipper is part of Ursa Minor, and the Teapot is part of Sagittarius). Others, like the Summer Triangle and Winter Hexagon, include stars from several neighboring constellations. These asterisms help us to identify the brighter stars in the constellations. If you enjoy stargazing, you may even have a few of your own personal asterisms, like I did on my entry to stargazing.

So now I have to learn 88 constellations to understand this Astronomy?

Ahhh…..Kinda yes. If you want to be familiar with the sky then you have to know the stars and the constellations. But it is a marvelous, jaw- dropping adventure which you will never regret. And learning along is the great thing.

Yeah, but still I have to learn 88 constellations?

Rome was not conquered in one day. Learning the sky can be done step by step. You learn it by loving it. No rush for a certificate, no rush for schooling, just you and the stars. Finding Betelgeuse in Orion would be pretty easy. But also knowing that it is classified as a red supergiant, Betelgeuse is one of the largest and most luminous stars known. In terms of mass, Betelgeuse is thought to be about 15 times the mass of the sun, but 600 times wider and more than 200 million times its volume! Though it looks tiny but it is not what you are thinking……. Isn’t the study of stars cool?

Found our star, the sun?

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes on the Sky: February 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 30 thru Feb 5

Wandering the Winter Circle

Find the 6, easy to spot, naked eye stars of the Winter Circle (or Winter Hexagon), as well as Collinder 70 and Messier 41 within that area.  A tour of several bright stars in the area includes close-ups of each star to get a sense of their relative size, and later the ecliptic is examined thanks to the alignment of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon.

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 6 thru Feb 12

Find Uranus via Venus

Uranus is a 5.9 magnitude object in the sky; barely visible naked eye from very dark locations, and visible with binoculars from most light polluted areas. So how to find it among the other 5th, 6th and 7th magnitude objects in the area?  Use a brighter object to guide the way!  On our journey around the Sun, the other planets’ positions change relative to our own, and this week, we see Venus “passing by” Uranus in the night sky.  As many amateurs have never even seen Uranus through optical instruments, this is a great week to try and spot our solar system’s 7th planet.  Download the PDF chart here (4.1 MB) to help you spot Uranus this week.

Also in the sky: Mars and the Moon make a magnificent pair in the sky this week, and as Mars is close to opposition, now is a good time to view not only the Red Planet, but some Messier galaxies that are nearby as well – thought it is better to spot them in a week or so, after the Moon has revolved further east in the sky.

Chart 10 : LEO, CANCER, SEXTANS, HYDRA

 

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 13 thru Feb 19

Measuring light pollution

The Globe at Night initiative enlists the help of amateur astronomers everywhere across the globe to submit what the sky looks like in their area with respect to how light pollution affects their visible sky. This week’s video focuses on that effort, and explains how to easily find the constellations used by Globe at Night as well as how to submit observations quickly and easily.

To learn more about this effort and to submit your observations, visit www.globeatnight.org.

Chart 10 : LEO, CANCER, SEXTANS, HYDRA

 

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 20 thru Feb 26

Moon in motion

See the Moon pass Mercury, Uranus, Venus and Jupiter all throughout this week; the brightest stars of Gemini and M35 are spotlighted as well. Also discussed: Where and when to see Mars and Saturn in the night sky this week.

 

Eyes on the Sky : January 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 2 thru Jan 8

All about Auriga

The all-new “Eyes on the Sky” kicks off by focusing on Capella, Auriga, three stellar Messier objects within it, and the Quadrantid meteor shower. Joining the fun is a cameo appearance by none other than Mr. Charles Messier himself! (Did they have film back then? Nah, but this is what makes astronomy fun!) See what’s in the all-new format, as well as what’s ‘up’ in the night sky this week.

Chart 3 : GEMINI, AURIGA, PERSEUS

Eyes on the Sky Jan 9 thru Jan 15

Mars and the Moon

Mars and the Moon take center stage in this week’s video; Mars has increased in size to about 10 arc seconds across recently, and will reach opposition in early March. So now is a good time to start observing the Red Planet to see what details are possible at this less-than-ideal opposition with it. The Moon is our closest celestial neighbor and offers great detail in a small telescope or binoculars, plus it recently acquired interest from two more spacecraft. Find out all about that and more and see what’s ‘up’!

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 16 thru Jan 22

Take a tour through Taurus, Part 1

Take a tour through Taurus (Part 1) by visiting Aldebaran and the Hyades, then set your sights on Saturn and it’s moons as the ringed planet reaches sufficient altitude in the sky by early morning to warrant telescopic viewing. Also covered: Where Venus, Jupiter and Mars can be found in the sky this week.

( I had rather add here that Auriga, Taurus and Orion don’t appear the way as shown by Dave in our skies. They actually appear the other way round.  Orion first, then Taurus and then Auriga. Look for the Orion’s belt, the guide starts there)

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 23 thru Jan 29

Take a tour through Taurus, Part 2

Finishing the tour of Taurus, this week’s “Eyes on the Sky” video focuses on how to find and see the Pleiades and M1, the Crab Nebula.  Light pollution and light trespass avoidance strategies to enhance viewing of dim celestial objects are discussed.  Also highlighted: Jupiter and it’s moons, plus notes on how and where to find Venus, Mars and Saturn this week as well.

Chart 9: TAURUS, ORION, MONOCEROS, LEPUS, CANIS MINOR/MAJOR

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