This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 21 – October 28

With an early-setting Moon 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 (try ka-mellow-par’-da-lis) 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. Near one end of this asterism a telescope will reveal the open star cluster NGC 1502. Happy hunting.

 

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:44 am and sunset will occur at 6:22 pm, giving 10 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (7:48 am and 6:28 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:54 am and set at 6:10 pm, giving 10 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (7:58 am and 6:17 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Friday, October 27; a great target for telescopes later in the week. Saturn continues to awe observers with views of its rings in early evening. Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun on Thursday, while Mercury sets about 20 minutes after them. Mars is nine degrees above Venus this weekend in the morning sky, and they increase that spread by a few degrees over the week. Look for meteors springing from Orion’s club early in the morning this weekend. This minor meteor shower is one of two arising from Halley’s Comet.

International Observe the Moon Night is on Saturday, October 28. Members and guests of RASC NB will have telescopes and binoculars set up at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John for this event on Friday, October 27 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, with a back-up date of Saturday. [Members and guests of RASC NB will also be hosting an observing night at the Moncton High School observatory, on Friday, October 27, from 7:30 pm to 9 pm.]

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