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How to find the Winter Hexagon

Introduction

Orion is the key for
cracking the winter sky

The winter sky is an excellent place to begin exploring the constellations that make up the night sky. Orion is the key, or signpost, for locating many of the other constellations in the winter sky. There are two convenient ways to locate all of the main constellations around Orion once Orion is located. Fortunately, Orion is easy to locate and well known to most people.

The first way is to follow lines made by pairs of stars in Orion. The second way is to locate the great winter hexagon of bright star around Orion.

The Constellations of the Winter Sky

If you live in the northern latitudes and you scan the sky from the southern horizon to the region overhead, you should be able to see the following constellations on a clear winter night: Orion the Hunter, Canis Major the Great Dog, Canis Minor the Little Dog, Taurus the Bull, Auriga the Charioteer, Gemini the Twins and the Pleiades star cluster. (See the map on the next page).

 In Greek mythology, Orion was a great hunter who eventually offended the gods, especially Apollo. Apollo tricked Artemis, the Goddess of the hunt, into shooting Orion on a bet. When she discovered that she had shot Orion, she quickly lifted him to the heavens and made him immortal, where he now hunts eternally with his two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. In front of him is his prey Taurus the Bull.

 The myths surrounding Auriga the Charioteer vary, but it is an ancient constellation dating back to at least to the Ancient Greeks. Some say Auriga invented the chariot and others that he trained horses for the best chariots.

 Gemini is a constellation made up of two stick figures known as the twins, Castor, who was a great horseman, and Pollux, who was a great boxer. According to one myth, Castor and Pollux (a.k.a. Polydeuces) were the sons of Zeus and Leda (from Leda and the Swan) and were hatched from an egg. Their sister was the beautiful Helen whose face launched a thousand ships to do battle in front the Trojan city of Troy.

Method 1: Using Pairs of Stars in Orion as a Guide

Finding Sirius and Canis Major

If you follow a line from the belt stars of Orion to the left and slightly down, you will come across a very bright star called Sirius, which is also known as the Dog Star. (See the arrows in the diagram to the right).

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky so it is hard to miss. Once you’ve located Sirius you can locate the other stars in the constellation Canis Major the Great Dog.

Finding Procyon and Canis Minor

Follow the a line from the shoulder stars of Orion to the left. The first bright star that you will come close to is Procyon, which resides in Canis Minor.

From there you should be able to see the other star that us easily visible. Together, the two stars make up the constellation Canis Minor, which is also known as the Little Dog. Along with Canis Major, Canis Minor follows Orion across the heavens on an eternal hunt.

Finding Aldebaran and Taurus

Following the belt stars to the right, you will pass just below the bright star Aldebaran and through the constellation Taurus, which is also known as the Bull.

Continuing on you will run across a fuzzy blur of stars closely grouped. These are the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters.

Finding Capella and Auriga

Follow the bottom most star on the left and the left most belt star upwards (going roughly over your head) and you will come across a very bright star called Capella. From Capella, you can follow the pentagon of brighter stars nearby that make up Auriga. Just below Capella, there is a triangle of stars known as ‘the kids’ as in goat babies.

Capella was one of the most important stars for navigation as it could be seen throughout most of the year from mid northern latitudes.

Finding the Twins Castor and Pollux

Follow a line from Rigel to Betelgeuse heading upwards and overhead. You will come to two rough sticks of stars that are headed by two brighter stars. This is the constellation Gemini, composed of the twins Pollux and Castor. Pollux is on the left and Castor is on the right.

Method 1: Using the Winter Hexagon Centered About Orion

If you look in around the sky centered on Orion, you should be able to see a rough hexagon of very bright stars. This is called the Winter Hexagon. Starting at Rigel, if you go counterclockwise by one, you end up at Aldebaran in Taurus. Go counterclockwise once more and you end up at Capella in Auriga. Go counterclockwise once more and you end up at the pair of stars Pollux and Castor in Gemini. Go counterclockwise once more and you end up at Procyon in Canis Minor. Finally, if you go counterclockwise once more you end up at Sirius in Canis Major.

Credits: http://www.science-teachers.com

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My Top 20 Guideposts in the Sky

Number

Common
Name

Constellation

Apparent
Magnitude

Spectral
Type

Luminosity
(Sun = 1)

Distance
(Light Years)

Radial
Velocity
(km / sec)

1 Sirius Canis Major -1.46 A1 26 8.7 -8
2 Canopus Carina -0.72 F0 15,000 310 +21
3 Alpha
Centauri
Centaurus -0.04 G2 1.7 4.3 -22
4 Arcturus Boötis 0.00 K2 115 36 -5
5 Vega Lyra 0.03 A0 52 25 -14
6 Capella Auriga 0.08 G8 F0 90 70 43 +30
7 Rigel Orion 0.12 B8 60,000 910 +21
8 Procyon Canis Minor 0.38 F5 7 11.4 -3
9 Achernar Eridanus 0.46 B5 400 85 +19
10 Betelgeux Orion 0.0 – 0.9 M2 105,000 v 640 +21
11 Agena Centaurus 0.61 B1 10,000 460 -11
12 Altair Aquila 0.77 A7 10 16.6 -26
13 Acrux Crux Australis 0.83 B1 3,200 360 -11
14 Aldebaran Taurus 0.85 K5 120 68 +54
15 Antares Scorpius 0.96 M1 7,500 330 -3
16 Spica Virgo 0.98 B1 2,100 260 +1
17 Pollux Gemini 1.14 K0 60 36 +3
18 Fomalhaut Piscis Australis 1.16 A3 13 22 +7
19 Deneb Cygnus 1.25 A2 70,000 1,800 -5
20 Becrux Crux Australis 1.25 B0 8,200 425 +20

Explanation

Number

This is a list of the 20 brightest stars as seen from the Earth (not including the Sun). The stars are numbered from 1 to 20 in sequence.

Common Name

This is the name by which the star is commonly known. The names are Greek, Latin or Arabic. This web site is based in London: stars not visible from London are in red.

Some examples of the names: Deneb is Latin for tail (because it marks the tail of The Swan – Cygnus); Antares is Greek for rival of Mars (because of its red colour); Aldebaran is Arabic for eye of the bull (because it marks the eye of The Bull – Taurus).

Constellation

A constellation is a star group (as seen from Earth) that the star is a part of. Constellations are human inventions. The stars in them appear in the same part of the sky but are, in fact, at different distances from us and not related to each other. Different cultures use different constellations. For more, read Astronomy and Astrology.

In the West, there are 88 recognised constellations; 48 of these date from Roman times and are known as the Classical Constellations. These include the 12 Zodiac constellations through which the Sun, Moon and planets always pass through. Constellations are always known by their Latin names.

Some examples: Canis Major means The Great Dog; Orion is The Hunter; Crux Australis means The Southern Cross.

Constellations are used by astronomers for convenience. We say that Sirius is in Canis Major rather than give its celestial coordinates.

Apparent Magnitude

Apparent Magnitude tells how bright the star is as seen from the Earth. The magnitude scale was devised by the Ancient Greeks. The brightest stars were called First Magnitude, the next brightest were called Second Magnitude, etc.

In modern times, the scale has been defined mathematically. A star of magnitude 1 is about 2.5 times brighter than a star of magnitude 2 which in turn is 2.5 times brighter than a star of magnitude 3. The brighter a star, the smaller its magnitude. Many stars are brighter than first magnitude. Some stars are so bright they have negative magnitudes. On this scale, Jupiter has a magnitude (at its brightest) of -2.6, Venus is at -4.4 and the Sun -27. The faintest stars visible to the naked eye are sixth magnitude. Pluto has a magnitude of +14, far too faint to be visible without a powerful telescope.

In the table it can be seen that Betelgeux varies its magnitude – some stars are variable in brightness.

The brightness of a star as seen from Earth depends on its intrinsic luminosity and its distance from Earth. A dim star may appear bright because it is close while a luminous star may appear faint because it is far away. This is why we say Apparent Magnitude.

Spectral Type

When starlight is passed through a prism, it splits into its constituent colours, like a rainbow. This is called the star’s Spectrum. Stellar spectra are crossed by dark lines. These lines give astronomers a lot of information about the star: temperature, luminosity, radius, magnetic properties, movement. Read The Electromagnetic Spectrum for more on spectra.

The Morgan-Keenan spectral classification

The Morgan-Keenan spectral classification (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stellar spectra are classified into types. These types are given letters. The spectral type series is a temperature series. Moving from the hottest stars to the coolest, the series of letters runs O, B, A, F, G, K, M.

Each spectral type is subdivided into ten numbers. For example, A0, A1, A2, up to A9. A0 is hotter than A1. The table below gives more information.

Spectral
Type

Colour

Surface
Temperature
(°C)

O

Blue >30,000

B

Blue-White 20,000

A

White 10,000

F

Yellow-White 7,000

G

Yellow 6,000

K

Orange 4,500

M

Red 3,000

Our Sun is a star of Spectral Type G2 with a surface temperature of around 6,000°C.

Luminosity

This tells us how much more energy and light the star gives off compared with the Sun. This is how bright the star really is once distance has been taken into account. There is a huge variety in the luminosity of the stars. At one extreme, the star Alpha Centauri is 1.7 times more luminous than the Sun. At the other extreme, Canopus is 15,000 times more luminous than our Sun.

Luminosity can be measured indirectly by combining the apparent brightness of a star with its distance. It can also sometimes be measured directly from the spectrum.

Distance

The distance of a star is given in Light Years. This is the distance covered by a light beam in one year. Light travels at 300,000 km per second (186,000 miles per second). In one year a beam of light will travel 9.4 million million km (5.9 million million miles). This enormous distance is a Light Year.

Many stellar distances can be measured directly by trigonometry. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the star appears to shift its position against more distant stars. This effect is called parallax. It is a tiny effect but can be measured. The amount of the parallax depends on the diameter of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (just under 300 million km or 186 million miles) and the distance to the star. A star with a paralax of 1 second of arc (written 1″) is said to be at a distace of 1 Parsec. 1 Parsec is equal to 3.26 Light Years.

Other stars can have their luminosity measured by their spectra or by other properties. When this is compared to their apparent brightness, a distance can be calculated.

For more on astronomical distances look at The Scale Of The Universe.

Radial Velocity

This the velocity of the star relative to the Sun. Negative velocities denote a star moving towards the Solar System. Positive velocities are for stars moving away from us.

Radial velocity is easily measured by looking at the star’s spectrum. The lines on the spectrum are shifted to the blue end if the star is moving towards us (the so-called blue shift) and to the red end if the star is moving away from us (red shift). The amount of this shift depends on the relative velocity between us and the star.

Credits: http://www.krysstal.com/brightest.html

(heavenswithlamps.wordpress.com)

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.

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.

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

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 : 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

Astronomy Outreach for dummies

 

Back to the class after one of my efforts to the first unofficial Astronomy Outreach with the students. I started the class with

“ So my students I gave you a homework to do last time I came to your class.” (Eyebrows-up as expecting them to answer).  And so they did answer

“ Yeah, you told us to look  at the sky at night.”

(Previously, after an hour lecture, I told them to just appreciate the night sky, and it could  be  rather done accompanied)

Aa.. distance la moonu moonu
Moonu colour-u white.
White-u background night night-u
Night-u coloru black-u

Now the rantings started.

Hunhhahaha..
Super maama ready..
Ready.. one..e.. two.o.. three.. four.

One : “Ayyo, I spent an hour outside and didn’t find anything.”

Two: “Me also, you told us to see the stars but there are so many.”

Three: “I was looking above at the sky and didn’t find anything. I was tired and went inside.”

Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di

So, to start there is so much too see at the sky but only there should be a guide to explain where to start ‘cause at the night the stars are all over but where to find each one of them is the real thing.

On a real dark night you can find from  1500 to  2000 stars on the sky. So where to start?

You start here or here.

If I give you a world map with all the countries on them but without the markings and the country names and assuming you never saw a map in your life. Could you identify where China or India is? What about tiny Mauritius

But now if I give you a map of the world with the naming and markings then assuming you are still the same dumber who strangely has never seen a map but knows a bit of English. So now could you find United States of America?

Though with some difficulty I think you could do it.

And now if I give you the same task but give you a search option to look for a country on a digital map, say for example a google map. Then what you think could you find it more easily .

You would obviously say

“YEAAAAh”

Similarly, the night sky is the same . The night sky is like a map. You should know the bigger countries where they are placed at first and then with time you would know where tiny looking Mauritius is.

Stars in the night tend to attach themselves together to form clusters. Ah! That is why we say “A cluster of stars”. But we rather know them as constellations. So these constellations group themselves in the night sky just like big countries like Australia, India, United States etc.

And when you look at them you know where they are.

Now, you are given a Star map with the names on it, obviously you would not find France , Brazil, Saudi Arabia or countries like that but rather, Orion, Auriga, Perseus, or Gemini. And you don’t know what the hell is that, but you go outside with a star map and start looking at the stars. You would return to your room with the expression WTF?

Do you get the WTF expression?

But, the thing is it starts becoming interesting when you identify your first country. Once you get that, you have jumped on to your ride to the Universe. Believe me it’s the most exciting thing.

So, for example you find the Orion’s belt. From here you can find almost all the countries “constellations” of your star map. Try not to do it all in one go.  Go step by step.  You would have to use the technique known as Starhopping.

But my advice would be to go by identifying the borders of your identified countries so that you will be able to find your next constellation. But in this process. You will have to know the stars too.

So, you will come to a point that you will be able to identify the stars within a constellation. Don’t panic there won’t be a thousand stars in a constellation but only a few.

Take it just as major cities in a country, like India has Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkota and Chennai. So, in Taurus which is near to Orion you would find, Aldebaran, Elnath, fainter than Aldebaran  or even The Pleiades.

Now to the next step, you are a smart guy, you don’t like being like the oldies, like taking your map and going outside and fumbling with it and looking weird. (You already are weird when you’re just looking at the sky specially at night. Onlookers get the impression as if you are looking for UFO’s. I am going through this) You are the techie guy. Though old school always proves itself to be the best one.

So for you, there is a great solution too. Stellarium.  Ah! this is the best piece of software ever created for Mankind. I love it.So you for example don’t know where to look. Start here on Stellarium. Take your laptop outside and now you will be able to surf around the sky in a few minutes.

With Stellarium you just type in the search “Orion”.

And

 

On your screen behold! Orion appears

 

And now your want to starhop , want to surf around, want to learn the constellations, you can practically do everything.

Moreover, You can zooooooooooom , that is you can enlarge the stars with your mouse scroll to have a look on each star. And with the magnification you appreciate the hugeness of each Individual star.

So, I think this ends the lesson here on how to start seeing the sky. I think I should go out  now to have my eyes on  the night sky to see what’s up.

P.S: In our part of the world we always see the hunter upside down in comparison to the Northern Hemisphere. I think the greeks never visited down here.

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?

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