| Observatory |
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...
The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal astro-experiences to look forward to.
Fri. Sept. 1 – When Luna rises late tonight she will provide a handy pointer to the outer ice giant Neptune. In a telescope the tiny blue disk will be found about three moon widths above the just past full Moon.
Mon. Sept. 4 – Tonight Luna, in waning gibbous phase, will rise around midnight in the company of brilliant Jupiter. The banded planet and its attendant Galilean moons will be to the right of our neighbour.
Tues. Sept. 5 – Continuing in her tour guide role, tonight Luna will introduce the inner ice giant Uranus. Binoculars will find the pale green ‘star’ (or small disk in a telescope) about the width of three fingers held at arm’s length below our neighbour.
Wed. Sept. 6 – This is Last Quarter Moon night with the reverse half lit disk rising in the early morning hours forming a triangle with the Pleiades and Hyades open star clusters. After daybreak Luna will continue to provide a striking daylight object riding high in the southern sky.
Fri. Sept. 8 – The waning crescent Moon will somewhat compromise things for those interested in spying a minor meteor shower early this morning. This group of ‘shooting stars’ are called the Epsilon Perseids and they offer a handful of streaks per hour, emanating from the vicinity of the ‘devil star’ Algol which climbs up the eastern sky toward the zenith after midnight. Luna will rise in the east to the lower left of the radiant, so meteors shooting westward will be the easiest to observe.
Sun. Sept. 10 – The pre-dawn eastern sky will be ornamented by the waning crescent Moon lining up below Gemini’s twin stars Castor and Pollux. Venus is developing her morning star role and will look up at the trio from just above the eastern horizon.
Mon. Sept. 11 – The narrowing lunar crescent will be seen close to Messier 44, the Beehive Cluster in the pre-dawn sky this morning. Binoculars will help bring out the dramatic hive of faint stars that make up the open cluster.
Tues. Sept. 12 - A reminder that we are in the fall Zodiacal Light season and with the New Moon coming up on the 15th this dark moon period will be an ideal time to try and spot it. If you have dark sky conditions and a clear view of the pre-dawn eastern horizon (or can travel to a location that does, such as our Okanagan Observatory), you might have a chance to glimpse the ghostly pyramid of faint light which reaches up from the horizon into the constellations Cancer and Gemini before morning twilight sets in. The effect is subtle but dramatic when you realize it represents sunlight reflecting off dust particles in the equatorial plane of the solar system.
Thurs. Sept. 14 - With the earlier arrival of dusk, those wishing to have some serious observing fun might consider the 'Milky Way Marathon' this weekend since Luna is at her New Moon phase tonight and will be out of the way for the weekend. In the same way that the maximum number of Messier objects can be seen in the course of a night in March, it is possible to see virtually all of the Milky Way that is visible from Canada during September. The idea is to begin in the evening with Sagittarius on the southern horizon, and work your way up the Milky Way through Scutum, Cygnus and overhead. As the night wears on the perspective changes as the Perseus arm begins to swing overhead and more and more of the 'other side' of the Milky Way rises, culminating with the appearance of Taurus and Orion and the ‘outside’ view of our galaxy during the pre-dawn hours. Our Okanagan Observatory with its excellent Milky Way dark sky view would be a perfect place for this all night campaign.
Sat. Sept. 16 – Fall is a great time to catch ‘the Demon Star’ doing one of its ‘blinks’. The eclipsing star Algol will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centred at 10.12pm tonight. Compare its brightness with neighbouring stars in Perseus in the north-northeast sky early in the evening and then check it out again around 10pm to see the decrease in brightness. A finder chart for Algol and where it sits in the Perseus constellation can be found by checking out the Wikipedia website.
Tues. Sept. 19 – Just before dawn this morning a very brilliant Venus will be seen climbing up from the eastern horizon. In fact this morning marks her greatest brilliancy in this turn as our ‘morining star’.
Tues. Sept. 19 - There will be another opportunity to see Algol do its dimming act tonight. This time ‘the Devil Star’, as it was known before it was revealed as an eclipsing binary star, will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centred around 10.01pm tonight. By comparing its brightness with neighbouring stars before 8.30pm, its much dimmer appearance around 10pm will be revealed.
Fri. Sept. 22 - Where did the time go? It seemed only weeks ago that we observed the Summer Solstice with the Sun setting at its northernmost point on the horizon. Now, the second half of the current year is itself half over and the Sun will set at the half way mark of its return circuit. The official moment of autumnal equinox will occur at 11.50pm tonight.
Fri. Sept. 22 – This is First Quarter Moon night when Luna’s striking half lit sphere checks out the advancing fall scenes in the Okanagan. In this case she will do it from deep in the south, peaking out over the horizon among the stars of the teapot asterism in Sagittarius.
Tues. Sept. 26 – There will be a striking scene low in the southeastern sky tonight as the waxing gibbous Moon pairs up with Saturn as they rise together into the night sky. The ringed planet will pose just above Luna among the faint stars of Aquarius.
Thurs. Sept. 28 – For those who missed the chance to see Neptune for themselves earlier this month, tonight Luna will again provide a fingerpost. This time our neighbour will sit about three of her widths below the blue ice giant.
Fri. Sept. 29 - Tonight celebrates the bounty of the fall season with the annual Harvest Moon which is the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. In earlier times the Moon performed a useful and important function by adding light to late evening harvest operations, not just for one night, but several in a row. This is because in fall our satellite is moving higher along the ecliptic path which compensates somewhat for its eastwardly movement each night.