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Archive for the ‘Star Clusters’ Category

05/12/2017 – Ephemeris – There will be a star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Saturday night the 13th

May 12, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 12th.  Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 9:00, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:16.  The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 10:37 this evening.

Tomorrow night May 13th there will be, weather permitting a star party at  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this time the venue is Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Stop number 3, the Dunes Overlook.  The event starts at 9 p.m., while it’s still light out and the location can be found.  Park at Picnic Mountain, which is after Stop 2, and right before stop 3, and walk over.  The planet Jupiter and all four of its bright moons and cloud bands will be featured.  Sharp eyed observers will also be able to see the Great Red Spot.  As the sky darkens there will be a twilight talk about the wonders of the spring sky.  Near the last half hour it will be dark enough to spot some of the galaxies and globular star clusters of spring.  The star party is made possible by the rangers of the park and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Telescopic Jupiter

Jupiter, its cloud bands, Great Red Spot and moons as it might be seen around 10 p.m. at the star party. The actual orientation will depend on the telescope used to view them. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

 

04/18/2017 – Ephemeris – How Queen Berenice lost her hair

April 18, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 18th.  The Sun rises at 6:52.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:31.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 3:04 tomorrow morning.

High in the east-southeast at 10 p.m. is the tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair.  In it are lots of faint stars that look like several strands of hair.  The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars.  The star cluster is 280 light years away, nearly twice as far as the Hyades, the face of Taurus the Bull setting in the west.  The story behind it was that Berenice was the Queen of Egypt, whose husband was away at war.  She offered her golden tresses to the gods for the king’s safe return.  The hair, was placed in a temple.  However the offering disappeared when the king returned.  Ever since the constellation of Coma Berenices has been seen to commemorate the queen’s sacrifice.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Coma Berenices finder chart

Coma Berenices finder chart for 10 p.m. April 18, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices

Approximate 7 power binocular field of view of the Coma Berenices Cluster. Created using Carted du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Addendum

12/15/2015 – Ephemeris – The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades

December 14, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 15th.  The Sun will rise at 8:13.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:02.  The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 7:21 this evening.

While I’ve mentioned the Pleiades with regard to its neighboring stars and constellations several times this autumn I haven’t looked at this beautiful star cluster itself.  The Pleiades appears as a  group of six or seven stars visible to the naked eye, of over a hundred stars, and is also known as the Seven Sisters.  Some also mistake it for the Little Dipper, due to the little bowl shape in the center of the cluster.  I call it the “tiny dipper”.  The real Little Dipper is now hanging off Polaris in the north.  There are a lot of stories about the Pleiades from many different cultures.  From the Greek and Roman cultures we get our best known stories of them, that the seven sisters were the daughters of the god Atlas and Pleione.  The 9 brightest stars bear the names of the sisters and their parents.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Hyades and Pleiades

The Pleiades (right) and the Hyades, the face of Taurus the bull (left) in this photograph I took 11:23 p.m. January 4, 2016.

Named Pleiads

The named stars of the Pleiades. This is also showing more stars than can be seen with the naked eye. This is the number of stars that can be seen in binoculars, which is the best way to observe them. Most telescopes offer too much magnification to fit all the stars in. A thirty power wide angle eyepiece can just fit all the stars in. Created using Stellarium.  Note that this view is the orientation of the cluster at 8p.m. tonight.

 

11/28/2016 – Ephemeris – The Hyades the star cluster in the face of Taurus the bull

November 28, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 28th.  The Sun will rise at 7:57.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 5:04.  The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:45 tomorrow morning.

Rising in the east now is the bright star Aldebaran an orange star that’s at one end of the sideways letter V of stars that is the head of Taurus the bull.  Above it is the jewel-like Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster.  There’s more to Taurus, like it’s freakishly long horns and front part of its body.  But you can say you’ve seem Taurus, if you can spot his face.  That V of stars is actually a star cluster called the Hyades, and in Greek Myth were the half-sisters of the Pleiades, also fathered by the god Atlas.  Both the Hyades and Pleiades are being pursued by Orion, which as Robert Frost put it is throwing a leg over the eastern horizon at 8 to 9 pm.  He isn’t the only one following the Pleiades, the name Aldebaran means “The Follower”.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

the Hyades, Taurus, Orion and the Pleiades

An animation showing the Hyades, Taurus, Orion and the Pleiades. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.  Click on image to enlarge.

Closeup of the Hyades and the Pleiades

Closeup of the Hyades and the Pleiades. Created using Stellarium.

04/05/2016 – Ephemeris – Coma Berenices, the second closest star cluster

April 5, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 5th.  The Sun will rise at 7:15.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 1 minute, setting at 8:16.   The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:53 tomorrow morning.

Midway up the sky in the east at 10 p.m. is a tiny sprinkle of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair.  It’s the constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair.  The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which is the best way to see it, and will also show more stars.  The cluster contains about 50 stars and lies at a distance of 280 light years from us, which makes it the second closest star cluster.  The closest being the Hyades, that is the face of Taurus the bull now about to set in the west.  The star cluster appears to be about 480 million years old.  It is an open or galactic star cluster, born along the plane of the Milky Way.  It appears away from the milky band due to its proximity to us.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Coma Berenices Finder

Coma Berenices finder chart 10 p.m., April 5, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices binocular view

Coma Berenices as it might look in a pair of binoculars. Telescopes are too powerful. Created using Stellarium.

11/09/2015 – Ephemeris – The celestial sisters

November 9, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 9th.  The Sun will rise at 7:31.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:21.   The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:15 tomorrow morning.

A marvelous member of the autumn skies can be found rising in the east at 8 in the evening.  It is the famous star cluster called the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters.  I might also add the ‘Tiny Dipper’.  Many people can spot a tiny dipper shape in its six or seven stars, and mistake it for the Little Dipper.  As nearsighted as I am, though corrected, I’ve never been able to see more than a few stars and a bit of fuzz.  However with binoculars, over a hundred stars appear along with the dipper shape of the brightest.  The fuzz I saw was unresolved stars, but in photographs the Pleiades actually contains wisps of dust that reflect the star’s blue light which the cluster is passing through.  In Greek and Plains Indian mythology the sisters were young maidens.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addenda

Pleiades Rising

The Pleiades rising at 8 p.m. November 9th. Created using Stellarium.

The Pleiades, about what you'd see in binoculars.

The Pleiades, about what you’d see in binoculars.

I’ll be in Cadillac tonight

I’ll be giving an illustrated talk tonight to the Cadillac Garden Club at St. Ann’s Parish in Cadillac at 7 p.m. I’ll be talking about all the ways the Sun affects the Earth.  At 8 p.m., if it’s clear,  I and other members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will have some telescopes set up in the parking lot to view the wonders of the heavens.  The meeting appears to be open to the public and the viewing after definitely is.

 

05/08/2015 – Ephemeris – May’s missing Milky Way

May 8, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 8th.  Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 8:55.   The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:08 tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow the Sun will rise at 6:22.

In May we look up to the sky and notice that the Milky Way is missing.  Will not really it’s as if the sky has pattern baldness with the Milky Way as a fringe on the horizon around the north half of the sky.  Overhead, where none should be is a galactic star cluster, a star cluster that should normally be in the Milky band.  That cluster is the constellation of Coma Berenices.  Its is a sparse star cluster of about 50 stars only 288 light years away.  If we were a thousand light years from it, it would appear in the Milky band.  One notes too that the stars of spring are also fewer, not the riot of stars we see in the winter or late summer.  The Milky Way galaxy is a thin disk, and in spring we are looking out the thin side.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

May 2015 Star Chart

Star Chart for May 2015. Note the Milky way in the north.  The Coma Berenices cluster is located between the labels CnV and Com.  Created using my LookingUp program.

Messier objects  in the spring sky.

Messier objects, mostly galaxies (ovals) in the spring sky. Created using my LookingUp program.

Most of the galaxies in the above chart belong to the Virgo Cluster a cluster of several thousand galaxies about 53 million light years away.  Charles Messier was a comet hunter active in the period around the time of the American Revolution at the Paris Observatory.  He made a catalog of fuzzy objects he ran into that didn’t move and thus were not comets.  The Messier catalog, which ran to 110 galaxies, star clusters and nebulae, some added posthumously, became a must-see list of some of the best sights for the telescope.