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What is Starhopping?

The night sky is replete with so many wonders. These wonders need just our eyes to be seen. One way to become familiar with the beautiful night sky is by Star-hopping.

In this digital age we are so engrossed with our daily lives that we don’t get to feed our souls. The best way to find a perspective in our meaningless lives is to have a look at the great wonders of the night sky.

But…..if you are not familiar with the sky, your first experience would be just like gazing to a thousands of dots on a big, very big black roof. So to solve this we are going to learn star-hopping.

Star-hopping is a great technique to identify where stars are.

First of all you have to identify your guideposts, (stars which are bright enough to indicate where less brighter stars are)and then once you have found them, you start star hopping.

It’s the same as you jump, jump and jump.

Yeah, you jump with your feet but here you do it with your eyes. That’s why I call it “eye jump”

Benefits of Star hopping

Star-hopping really is awesome. Believe me finding even one constellation out of the 88 constellations or an asterism is purely fascinating. This allows you not only to recognize the patterns of constellations, but in the process….let it be even a life-time…..you’re also learning about star distances, star colours, ages and names.

“You’ll find that the whole of the night sky is an amazing mixture of space, time, history, science and world cultures. It’ll lead you off on all sorts of paths and you’ll learn things that will amaze others. Not to mention the basic reason – you’ll know what you’re looking at.”

 Credits: September 2008 issue of Sky at Night Magazine

Orion the hunter

(credit: NASA).

Orion, the Hunter

In our summer skies (Southern Hemisphere –Mauritius, in the Northern Hemiphere it is Winter), just have a look towards the west, you would find the three stars aligned – these three are the Orion’s belt. This is the easiest to find.

The two stars north of this are Orion’s shoulders. One of these is Betelgeuse (“BEETLE-juice”), which is a giant red star. The two brighter stars to the south are Orion, the hunter’s legs. The bright blue star is Rigel.

Ancient people used Orion to predict the seasons: If it appeared at midnight, the grapes were ready to harvest. If it appeared in the morning, summer was beginning. If it appeared in the evening, winter had arrived.
In the photo below, as we can see, we have already identified seven bright stars. Now taking them as guide-posts, we can find your way to other stars and constellations too. You just have to find your way to them by imagining your straight lines and gradually hopping from one star to another. Quite easy, you see.

seven bright stars in orion

Is it necessary to star hop to understand the sky?

We are living in the digital age of electronic star charts, easy planetarium softwares on our laptops, star apps on Ipads and stars in our palms or GO TO telescopes where with only a push of a button one can travel from the Lunar neighborhood to the far reaches of deep space in just a few seconds.

Orion-SkyQuest-Computerized-Dobsonian-Telescope

Despite all of this easily available technology, many star gazers and amateur astronomers prefer doing their night observing without the use of GO TO telescopes, and truely speaking star hopping is the best way to have a complete grip on the night sky.

So  go star-hopping, the night sky is waiting to be seen.

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Eyes on the Sky: Apr 16 thru Apr 22

Eyes on the Sky: Apr 16 thru Apr 22

Catch a couple crescents and eyeing Orion

Late waning and early waxing (i.e., very thin) crescent Moons are beautiful sights, but can be tough to spot and see.  Eyes on the Sky will show you where to look in the early morning this week to see the slender waning crescent Moon in the eastern sky, then where to look again as the Moon reappears in the evening western sky.

Orion is fading into the southwestern evening sky, but still remains high enough while it is dark to spot some interesting double stars spotted with binoculars or with a small telescope.  Don’t miss the 3-D “zoom in” perspective of Orion’s belt stars, which all appear to be in a line and of equal distance – check out the surprising result of zooming in!  And lastly, with the “Mayan calendar” hype occurring, learn a bit about what the Maya saw in this part of the sky too.

Centaurus A : A beautiful Galaxy

Galaxy Centaurus A, in X-ray

Galaxy Centaurus A, in X-ray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Centaurus A (also known as NGC 5128) is a prominent galaxy in the constellation of Centaurus. There is considerable debate in the literature regarding the galaxy’s fundamental properties such as its Hubble type (lenticular galaxy or a giant elliptical galaxy) and distance (10-16 million light-years).NGC 5128 is one of the closest radio galaxies to Earth, so its active galactic nucleus has been extensively studied by professional astronomers. The galaxy is also the fifth brightest in the sky,making it an ideal amateur astronomy target, although the galaxy is only visible from low northern latitudes and the southern hemisphere. Credits : Wikipedia

I think  this video needs to be shared. Showing galaxies or other interesting celestial objects in multiple wavelengths is a superb job. I wonder there’s more in reserve for us by ESA.

But a deep sky object like NGC 5128 could also be seen by amateur astronomers and with the right tools and some stacking you can have a marvellous  image. What made me amazed is you could have this beautiful image with an 8″ dobsonian. ( This image is by an 8″ newtonian, but for me it’s the same) A perfect debutante telescope.

Centaurus A Gradient Removed

Credits: split_city @ http://stargazerslounge.com

First attempt at Centaurus A.

Details
Scope: 8″ Newt
Mount: EQ6
Camera: unmodded Canon 400D
ISO1600
Exposures: 25x60secs unguided
Stacked in DSS and processed in CS3

This is a cropped version. Focus slightly off and stars a little elongated.

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.

 

Chocolate Mars with Leo

Addiction is  a bad thing. People are  addicted to anything mobile phones, T.V, video games,  cigarettes, internet, Facebook, drugs or even  chocolate. It always leads to something real bad. What about being addicted to the night sky?

Getting up late at night and going outside and gazing up at  the  sky is something to be done, especially as it is summer now. It’s so refreshing, clears up the mind and even puts you on  a high . You get the real calmness of the night, coupled with a light breeze going right  through your hair, your favourite chocolate with you……. this is a great moment ( ……. ). Experience it at 2:00 a.m.

However, you don’t need to be addicted to the night sky, you  can just be a casual night gazer. It’s free. People  don’t just gaze at something, they  don’t understand, so gazing should be coupled with knowing , understanding and appreciation. The night sky is there for that.  It’s just the factor of amazement,  The everyday amazement of such a beautiful  created sky is longing to be seen and  appreciated. Not just that it needs to be appreciated because it’s beautiful  but to think that the sky has been there with all it’s  majesty for so long and has been amazing billions of people around the globe and would stay a wonder. Obviously it is there for a perfect reason.

So what’s up there in the night sky?

Nous sommes au mois de Mars, nous devrions regarder la planète Mars. It’s great that Mars is there up for us to see.

Mars towards East

Mars is already in the sky towards the East as from the evening at sunset. If you fancy following Mars the whole night then  you would have to raise your head towards  the east and then follow it towards the west . Mars would drown itself in the western horizon at about 4:00 a.m in the morning. So, have your eyes up. If ever, during this weekend  you’re planning anything outside at night, or just get up from sleep at 2:00 am then visit mars on Leo’s  belly.

Towards the west at 2:00 a.m. It’s  great that Mars is there up for us to see.  (If you ever get up at night:)) Mars would be in front of you, if you face towards the west and look up at the sky. Mars is settled just above the constellation of Leo. It’s just as if Mars is on the belly of the lion while the lion is dozing off with its four feet upwards.  You don’t have to picture all this ,but it’s just so amazing to see Regulus and the other stars too.

Regulus? Now what is this? Regulus is the main brightest star in the constellation Leo.  Known also as the heart of the Lion.

Regulus - The Lion's heart

I still don’t find it?

At sunset , that is where the sun sets , toward the west. Look towards the sun. Then change your position to 90 degrees that’s the  East. Now look towards  the sky in this position a little later( about half or an hour later)  after sunset, you would see a bright yellow looking star, which doesn’t twinkle.  That is Planet Mars. If you look at it with a pair of binoculars you would see that is glowing red. So, have a look and give me your shout.

So if you are addicted in any way,  other than sleeping, Then go out  to see the night sky. Give me a shout if you find Mars.

 

My First Observation

Rather would like to call it My First Night SKY gazing

Forgetting my new pair of binocs was not something willed upon but New Year 2012 was approaching and as the hump-jump was everywhere, the sky was absolutely something to be forgotten about.

Do, you think the sky can be just something taken for granted and not taken care about? Obviously, for the half of my life I had never taken any interest with the sky, nor does the mass of dumbed down populace.

So why this sudden rush to understand the sky now??

The sky has been always there, neither it is so “enchanting” nor “magnetic” but our eyes are so riveted to our laptop screens or our TV sets that we have almost no time to care for what’s happening above us. Or, to just even ponder about a sky so beautiful with all its mysteries there waiting to be explored upon.

The creation of the heavens and the earth is indeed greater than the creation of mankind; yet, most of mankind knows not.

(Quran 40:57)

At 12:00 a.m midnight, around the world as it is, the festivities started with the fire works show.

In Mauritius, at the peak of the Signal Mountain this fireworks time-lapse was taken.

Unbelievingly, by one in the morning of January 2012, everything quietened up. The night was still.  No stirring up of even the leaves on trees around.

I am still thinking why did I go out that night rather than sleep?

So, my first observation did happen on 01/01/2012. How do I remember this? I think reading a review somewhere  I  came upon the advice that if you are entering this amateur astronomy hobby, ever if you are observing even for a few minutes , just record the observations. It would help you a lot.

How?

Personally, while reviewing at my log notes in my personal diary, I looked foolish of what I had logged as my first observations, but it was so interesting that an amateur as me brought in my own astronomy definitions on my first time to the already defined observable universe.

Nevertheless, the first observation remains the best and the most memorable.

Perhaps this is why I am so much in love with  Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. These three prominent stars inthe central regions of the constellation of Orion align to form the ‘belt’ of the Hunter.

And surprisingly the whole world is also. Take any beginner’s guide to the sky, they would talk only Orion,Orion, Orion. I didn’t know about Orion or its belt, but perhaps this was a sign from The Creator that this is where you should start your journey to the universe. There is so much I have learned about these three that I am baffled and there is still more to come.

The actual observation

Standing towards the west, I saw this magnificently in front of me.

I continuously looked at this portion of the sky for 2 hrs straight

What I actually wrote as observational notes?

Night gazing: The axe

Naked eye: Concentrated dots

Binocs: Small dots.

01:00 – 03:00 am

I also drew the dots  in a diary.

What makes me foolish looking now is that I called the Orion belt as the axe’s blade and the Orion Nebulae as the axe’s handle.

Hey, if the Greeks can make out Gods out of stars why can’t I make my own Axe?

The Orion Hunter

So, I have already fallen in love with the sky, what are you waiting to raise your eyes to the beautiful night sky?

My first Binoculars

After spending a night on the net and up till 8:00, I had a short nap of an hour or two, had a shower, and was on my way to do some shopping. But what was on my mind the most, was that to see the sky I now have to buy a binocular. And so for sure I was able to buy me one. It was a 10×50. And I was happy with it ‘cause I could see with it in the daytime too.

Obviously this is not mine, but mine looks kinda same

The children were happy too, I am already thinking that it’s high time that I have to buy an other toy binocs for them, ’cause I don’t want to damage mine.

But I think rather, it is good if I could educate them to use it well.

“But, you know how children are.”

Waiting for the night to come, I had to now start observing. But now the chores were there to put on the observing for a later time. Grrrrr. So, for the first observing, a so much cherished thing, I almost forgot the binocs.

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