Tag Archives: Polaris

CNYO Brochure – How The Night Sky Moves

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

In preparation for upcoming 2013 lecture and observing sessions, we have put together instructional brochures to help introduce the Night Sky to attendees. The second of these, entitled “How The Night Sky Moves,” is provided below in PDF format. This brochure will be available at our combined lecture/observing sessions, but feel free to bring your own copy (or the PDF on a tablet with a good red acetate cover!).

Download: How The Night Sky Moves (v4)

NOTE: These brochures are made better by your input. If you find a problem, have a question, or have a suggestion (bearing in mind these are being kept to one two-sided piece of paper), please contact CNYO at info@cnyo.org.

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How The Night Sky Moves

Why Polaris Doesn’t (Seem To) Move

“Like the Sun, the Night Sky appears to rise in the East and set in the West (which is a result of the Earth spinning from West to East).”

The Circumpolar Constellations

“Their orientations due to Earth’s rotation may change, but they are ALWAYS VISIBLE IN THE NIGHT SKY – SO LEARN THESE SIX FIRST!”

Zodiac, Ecliptic, Solstices, Equinoxes

“The constellations of the Zodiac are special because they mark the apparent path the Sun and planets take across the sky as the Earth revolves around the Sun.”

One Earth Day vs. One Earth Rotation

“There are 24 hours in a day, but the Earth takes 4 minutes less than 24 hours to make one full rotation.”

Constellation Movement By The Hour

“With 24 hours in a day, the sky turns 15 degrees (1/24th of 360 degrees) per hour. During a 4-hour observing session, circumpolar constellations will then appear to move counterclockwise (East-to-West) 60 degrees – 1/6th of a circle – around Polaris.”

Constellation Movement During The Year

“After 12 months, the Earth (and our view of the Night Sky) almost returns to the same position it was the year before. Why almost?”

CNYO Brochure – A Guide For New Observers

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

In preparation for upcoming 2013 lecture and observing sessions, we have put together instructional brochures to help introduce the Night Sky to attendees. The first of these, entitled “A Guide For New Observers,” is provided below in PDF format. This brochure will be available at our combined lecture/observing sessions, but feel free to bring your own copy (or the PDF on a tablet with a good red acetate cover!).

Download: A Guide For New Observers (v4)

NOTE: These brochures are made better by your input. If you find a problem, have a question, or have a suggestion (bearing in mind these are being kept to one two-sided piece of paper), please contact CNYO at info@cnyo.org.

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2013may1_gfno_pg2

Guide For New Observers

 

The Importance Of The Constellations

“For modern amateur astronomers, constellations are the ‘coarse adjustment’ by which we find our way around the Night Sky, using these star groupings as guides to planets, star clusters, nebulae, comets & galaxies.”

The Importance Of Dark Adaption

“A camera flash or smart phone will set your dark adaption back MINUTES, SO AVOID BRIGHT LIGHTS!”

Sky Too Confusing? Start In The City

“Light Pollution is the bane of astronomers, but it does simplify the search for constellations by making your eyes less sensitive to light from dim and distant stars.”

Distances In The Sky – Hand’s Up!

“With some ‘digital’ calibration (as in, your fingers), a walk between constellations becomes a matter of letting your fingers gauge how far you need to look based on any sky charts you may be using.”

Why Polaris Doesn’t (Seem To) Move

“Like the Sun, the Night Sky appears to rise in the East and set in the West (which is a result of the Earth spinning from West to East).”

The Zodiac And The Ecliptic

The Zodiacal Constellations mark the ecliptic – the path the Sun and planets appear to take over the course of the year.

The Circumpolar & Seasonal Constellations

The circumpolar constellations are the best places to start for the new amateur astronomer because they are always visible from your latitude (even if you have to turn your head a bit to see them all).

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 9 February 2013

Ryan Goodson, Larry Slosberg, and I joined Bob Piekiel for his monthly New Moon observing session at Baltimore Woods on his weather-alternate session (having lost Friday’s session to Snow Storm Nemo). What started as a remarkably cold session, which then progressed to a bitterly cold session, and then finally to an intolerably cold session (forcing us to close shop up around 8:30 p.m.), still provided some excellent views of the Winter Sky, including the Solar System‘s largest planet Jupiter right between the Hyades and Pleiades.

For those who haven’t ventured for a session, the view from the Baltimore Woods parking lot includes a clear zenith (what luck!), a tree to the North that extends almost up to Polaris (so one must walk around it to get the view of constellations below our North Star), low-lying trees to the West, then the warm orange glow (the only thing warm on the 9th) of Baldwinsville and Syracuse to the East-Southeast. As we’re mid-winter, the evening observing was obstructed occasionally by blindingly bright snowmobiles (but one had plenty of lead time to take cover).

The evening started early with a fly-by of the yellow-orange ball that is (from the ground, anyway) the International Space Station (ISS), right on schedule with the predictions from heavens-above.com:

Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
[Mag] Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
09 Feb -3.3 18:55:57 10° SW 18:59:16 68° SE 18:59:56 51° E Visible

Reaching a total session count of eight, the evening included several observations of Jupiter, noting specifically how quickly Io rushed from Jupiter as even 10 minute intervals progressed (the slow cooling of mirrors resulted in many returns of increasingly crisp views). A comparison of eye piece magnifications and field-of-views was performed with the Pleiades in Bob’s 11″ Schmidt–Cassegrain and Ryan’s 16″ NMT Dob. In both cases, one my my favorite doubles, Tyc1800-1961-1 (blue) and Tyc1800-1974-1 (orange), jumped right out from the center of the tea cup. The lesson learned from such an exercise is that magnification is not the key to observational astronomy – it is seeing all that you want to see in the field of view that is key to enjoying the Night Sky.

A second highlight of the evening included M35, an open cluster in Gemini that, at 2,800 light years away, still covers an area the size of the Full Moon. Clearly visible as a slight “smudge” in the upper-left corner of the eyepiece (so the lower-right corner of M35) at low magnification is the compact open cluster NGC 2158.

After Jupiter, the night belonged to the massive Orion Nebula (M42), a hydrogen cloud doubling as a stellar nursery. At a magnitude of +4.0, the fuzzy patch in Orion’s Belt is visible to the Naked Eye, increasing in density with small binoculars, and leading to magnificent views of filamentous nebulosity at low magnification in both telescopes. The splitting of the main binaries in Trapezium was trivial in Ryan’s 16″ NMT Dob even without a completely cooled mirror.

I noted to Ryan that, given the usual CNY winter conditions, “It’s a rarity to see Pegasus in the West.” The quintet of Sirius, Orion’s Belt, the Hyades, Jupiter, and the Pleiades was worth the visit with or without equipment. After 90 minutes of observing in cold, continually patchy skies, the temperature dropped precipitously, instigating a rapid retreat and scope packing by all attendees. The lessons learned – your gloves are never thick enough & always have a headlamp in the car for the end of the evening!