Tag Archives: Rigel

NASA Night Sky Notes for February 2019: Hexagon At Night, Quartet In The Morning

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting by the Night Sky Network in February, 2019.

By David Prosper

The stars that make up the Winter Hexagon asterism are some of the brightest in the night sky and February evenings are a great time to enjoy their sparkly splendor. The Winter Hexagon is so large in size that the six stars that make up its points are also the brightest members of six different constellations, making the Hexagon a great starting point for learning the winter sky. Find the Hexagon by looking southeast after sunset and finding the bright red star that forms the “left shoulder” of the constellation Orion: Betelgeuse. You can think of Betelgeuse as the center of a large irregular clock, with the Winter Hexagon stars as the clock’s hour numbers. Move diagonally across Orion to spot its “right foot,” the bright star Rigel. Now move clockwise from Rigel to the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius in Canis Major. Continue ticking along clockwise to Procyon in Canis Minor and then towards Pollux, the brighter of the Gemini twins. Keep moving around the circuit to find Capella in Auriga, and finish at orange Aldebaran, the “eye” of the V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull.

Two naked-eye planets are visible in the evening sky this month. As red Mars moves across Pisces, NASA’s InSight Mission is readying its suite of geological instruments designed to study the Martian interior. InSight and the rest of humanity’s robotic Martian emissaries will soon be joined by the Mars 2020 rover. The SUV-sized robot is slated to launch next year on a mission to study the possibility of past life on the red planet. A conjunction between Mars and Uranus on February 13 will be a treat for telescopic observers. Mars will pass a little over a degree away from Uranus and larger magnifications will allow comparisons between the small red disc of dusty Mars with the smaller and much more distant blue-green disc of ice giant Uranus.

Speedy Mercury has a good showing this month and makes its highest appearance in the evening on February 27; spot it above the western horizon at sunset. An unobstructed western view and binoculars will greatly help in catching Mercury against the glow of evening twilight.

The morning planets put on quite a show in February. Look for the bright planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn above the eastern horizon all month, at times forming a neat lineup. A crescent Moon makes a stunning addition on the mornings of February 1-2, and again on the 28th. Watch over the course of the month as Venus travels from its position above Jupiter to below dimmer Saturn. Venus and Saturn will be in close conjunction on the 18th; see if you can fit both planets into the same telescopic field of view.  A telescope reveals the brilliant thin crescent phase of Venus waxing into a wide gibbous phase as the planet passes around the other side of our Sun. The Night Sky Network has a simple activity that helps explain the nature of both Venus and Mercury’s phases at bit.ly/venusphases

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov

The stars of the Winter Hexagon
Image created with help from Stellarium

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

“Upstate NY Stargazing In January” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the Upstate NY Stargazing series, “Upstate NY Stargazing in January: Quadrantid meteors and Winter’s best early evenings,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

Direct Link: newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2017/01/…_winters_best_early_eveni.html

Direct Link: www.syracuse.com/outdoors/2017/01/…_winters_best_early_eveni.html

Anyone clicking on the link will be treated to a remarkable image of the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae, next to the belt-edge star Alnitak in the constellation Orion the Hunter. With the kind reproduction permissions from Andrew Chatman of ASRAS, I’ve included the hi-res version of the image below for your downloading and desktop-background-ing pleasure.

Caption: The Flame and Horsehead Nebulae in the constellation Orion the Hunter. The belt star Alnitak is the brightest star in the image, just above the Flame Nebula. Image by Mike Selby, Andrew Chatman (member of ASRAS-Rochester Astronomy Club) and Stefan Schmidt at SC Observatory, Samphran, Thailand. Downloadable images: 3000×1956 6436×4196.

The Quadrantids turned out to be a wash for CNY, but we’ve had a few crystal clear nights near the New Moon for planetary and other observing. With, perhaps, a last major focus on Orion this year, a How-To seeking guide for nearby constellations using Orion was included in the article (reproduced below with caption).

Caption: Orion can guide you around its neighborhood. Red = belt stars to Sirius and Canis Major; Orange = Rigel and belt center to Gemini; Yellow = Bellatrix and Betelgeuse to Canis Minor; Green = Belt stars to Aldebaran and Taurus; Blue = Saiph and Orion’s head to Capella in Auriga. Click for a larger view.

Liverpool Public Library Hosts A Course From futurelearn.com This January – In The Night Sky: Orion

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

For those too thin-skinned to brave a night of observing during one of Bob Piekiel’s wintertime Baltimore Woods sessions (that may include me as well if it gets as bad as last year), I am pleased to report that there will be at least one golden opportunity for you to don your astronomy thinking cap this coming January, courtesy of the Liverpool Public Library (LPL).

The LPL is running a lecture series featuring a four-session course from The Open University and futurelearn.com entitled In The Night Sky: Orion. I leave you to the course description below from the futurelearn.com website to learn more about the course.

2014dec16_orion

As for the logistics, there are (reportedly) 13 openings still available for the LPL session that will include session one on January 6th and session four on January 27th (with sessions two and three left to you at your favorite internet connection). If interested, you can sign up for the free course at ny.evanced.info/liverpool/lib/eventsignup.asp?ID=11963. I’ll post updates as I have them, else hope to see some familiar faces (or hear some familiar voices) at the first session!

NOTE: The registration is Liverpool-centric. That is, people living in Liverpool have priority in registering (so if they hit their max with Liverpool locals, you (assuming you’re not a Liverpool resident) might not get into the LPL-hosted sessions. But you can still register for the course!).

From The futurelearn.com Website

In The Night Sky: Orion

Explore the night sky, discover how stars formed and find out about exoplanets, all through the constellation of Orion.

About The Course

From the basics of astronomy and stargazing, to the science behind the birth of a star, this four week course will change the way you see the night sky. You’ll examine one of the most famous constellations, Orion, who the Ancient Greeks believed was a huntsman placed among the stars by Zeus himself.

Starting with its famous nebula where new stars and planets are being formed, you’ll take a look at the seven brightest stars that make up this constellation, including the supergiants Rigel and Betelgeuse, using high-quality images from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

You will also investigate the Pleiades, often known as the Seven Sisters, a star cluster bright enough to be seen around the world with the naked eye. You’ll observe with your own eyes and share your observations with other learners.

You’ll find out about exoplanets, planets that orbit other stars just as we orbit the Sun and may hold the secrets to life outside of the solar system. Finally you’ll think about the Milky Way, the galaxy of which our solar system is but one small part, and consider the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.

From The Liverpool Public Library Event Page

Event Type: Adult Programs

Date: 1/6/2015, 1/27/2015
Start Time: 6:30 PM
End Time: 8:30 PM

Description: Introducing—Orion!

Researcher Monica Grady (namesake of Asteroid 4731 Monicagrady) will present the universe through the lens of one of the most famous constellations. Take a look at the seven brightest stars in Orion, including the supergiants Rigel and Betelgeuse, using high-quality images from outer space telescopes. Also observe the Pleiades, and learn about far-away exoplanets. Finally, think about the Milky Way, and consider the history of the universe.

We will meet at the library twice, on the first and last Tuesdays of the course, to share insights and questions about the stars. Damian G. Allis, a professor at Syracuse University and NASA Solar System Ambassador, will lecture and take questions at both meetings.

Go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/orion for the course description and to sign up for the online class. The course runs online for four weeks (January 5-30). You may enroll for free.

For Teens ages 15 and up and adults. No prior experience is required. You don’t need a telescope, but a pair of binoculars will be useful.

Location: Sargent Meeting Room
Presenter: Laurel Sharp
Status: Openings (13)

And, as you register at futurelearn.com, do remember to also register with LPL for the event at ny.evanced.info/liverpool/lib/eventsignup.asp?ID=11963.