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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 October 19 – October 26

The Pleiades star cluster is rising now in the early evening. Also known as M45 or the Seven Sisters, and sometimes mistaken to be the Little Dipper, this compact eye-catcher represents the shoulder of Taurus the Bull. Over the next two hours the rest of the constellation clears the eastern horizon; in particular, the V-shaped Hyades star cluster anchored by orange Aldebaran, and the two stars marking the tips of the bull’s horns.

In mythology, Zeus changed himself into a beautiful white bull to attract the attention of Europa, a princess of Sidon. She was taken by its gentleness and made the mistake of climbing on its back. Bully Zeus took off to the nearby seashore and swam all the way to Crete, where he changed back into his godly form and completed his conquest. The result was a baby boy who was named Minos, and he grew up to become the first King of Crete.

One of the horn stars of Taurus had been shared with the constellation Auriga. This star, Alnath, was officially assigned to Taurus when the constellation boundaries were set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in the late 1920s. Taurus is one of the zodiac constellations; the ecliptic passes between the Pleiades and Hyades and also between the horn-tips. Since the Moon’s orbit is tilted to the ecliptic by about five degrees, at times it can be seen passing in front of the Pleiades and Aldebaran.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:41 am and sunset will occur at 6:26 pm, giving 10 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (7:45 am and 6:32 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:51 am and set at 6:14 pm, giving 10 hours, 23 minutes of daylight (7:54 am and 6:21 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Monday, scuttling through the Beehive star cluster (M44) in Cancer when it rises after midnight that night. Jupiter sets around 9 pm this week but it is still high enough in twilight to show detail through a telescope, although Saturn with its rings is the evening highlight. Venus can be seen with binoculars shortly after sunset, and Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the Sun this weekend, about 7 degrees left of Venus. The Orionid meteor shower, one of two showers arising from remnants of Halley’s Comet, will add a few extra meteors per hour over Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

The provincial astronomy club, RASC NB, is giving astronomy presentations at Moncton High School on the afternoon of October 19. For details, see their website at https://rascnb.ca/blog/tag/meeting/.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 October 12 – October 19

Aquarius the Water Bearer is the source of all the water associated with our southern autumn constellations. It is situated among Pisces to the east and Capricornus to the west, with Pegasus north and Pisics Austrinus south. Its western end stretches over top of the Capricornus. Most of the stars of Aquarius are relatively dim but one asterism stands out, the tight group of four stars that forms the Water Jar. Resembling a circle with three spokes, this asterism is also called the Steering Wheel.

One tale from mythology has Aquarius representing Ganymede, the handsome son of a Trojan king. Zeus was attracted to the lad and sent his pet eagle to kidnap him. Ganymede was given the important position of cup bearer (wine pourer) at Olympian feasts. There may have been another motive of the kidnapping, for the moons of the planet Jupiter are named for Zeus’s lovers and Ganymede is the largest of those moons.

A few Messier objects lie within Aquarius, the best being the globular cluster M2. I usually star hop to this one by going from a star in the neck of Pegasus to its ear, and extending that line an equal distance. A fainter globular cluster, M73, is above the back of Capricornus, and just to its east is enigmatic M73. Stargazers wonder how this four-star asterism made it to the Messier list. Nearby to the northeast a moderate-size telescope might reveal the Saturn Nebula, the glowing gaseous remnant of a dead star that somewhat resembles the ringed planet.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:31 am and sunset will occur at 6:38 pm, giving 11 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:35 am and 6:44 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:41 am and set at 6:26 pm, giving 10 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (7:45 am and 6:32 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Sunday, the Hunter’s Moon, which is the same effect as the Harvest Moon where the shallow angle of the ecliptic results in the Moon rising 22-25 minutes later for several evenings rather than the average 50 minutes. By midweek Jupiter sets around 9:20 pm, about two hours after Mercury and Venus set and nearly two hours before Saturn. Venus can be seen with binoculars shortly after sunset, and Mercury might be visible through the fading twilight to its left before they set.

The provincial astronomy club, RASC NB, is giving astronomy presentations at Moncton High School on the afternoon of October 19. For details, see their website at https://rascnb.ca/blog/tag/meeting/.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 October 5 – October 12

With moose season out of the way and before the Moon gets too bright, this weekend it might be a good time for some good old fashioned giraffe hunting. No guns allowed, just find a place where the sky is not tainted by light pollution and bring binoculars for an added treat.

The large constellation Camelopardalis is somewhat easier to pronounce than it is to locate in the sky. Look below Cassiopeia and between Perseus and Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper, which has the North Star at the end of the handle). Any stars you can see in this area compose the not-so-stellar giraffe. The constellation was imagined and charted on a globe by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in 1612 and later adopted by other prominent makers of star charts. The name derives from how the Greeks regarded giraffes as camel leopards, with their long neck and spots.

An interesting binocular object called Kemble’s Cascade is an observing highlight within Camelopardalis. This asterism, forming a line of about 20 stars, was noticed by Canadian amateur astronomer Father Lucien Kemble, who reported it to a columnist at Sky and Telescope magazine. One method of finding your way there is to imagine a line across the top stars of Cassiopeia’s W shape, right to left, and extend it an equal distance. Another is to extend an equal length line from Algol to Mirfak, the two brightest stars in Perseus. Near one end of this asterism a telescope will reveal the open star cluster NGC 1502, which is nicknamed the Jolly Roger Cluster.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:22 am and sunset will occur at 6:52 pm, giving 11 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (7:27 am and 6:57 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:31 am and set at 6:38 pm, giving 11 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:35 am and 6:44 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter and near Saturn this Saturday, and in late evening telescope users can watch the Lunar X form just inside the shadow line (called the terminator) below centre. Jupiter and Saturn remain as prime targets in the early evening. On Sunday at sunset the shadow of Jupiter’s moon Io begins a two-hour crawl across the planet’s cloud top, and the Red Spot will be prominent for the latter hour if conditions are good for telescope viewing. Venus and Mercury set 30-40 minutes after the Sun all week. Venus can be seen with binoculars soon after sunset, but Mercury will be a much more difficult target to the left of Venus. You might catch a few extra shooting stars throughout Tuesday night from the Draconid meteor shower.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on October 5 at 7 pm, and the William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets in the UNB Fredericton Forestry-Earth Sciences building on Tuesday at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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Photos of the Month – October 2019

[Featured image above by David McCashion]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.


 

 


Emile’s astrophotography portfolio is available on his website.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the November issue of this blog is October 30th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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