Eye of Bull Watches Moon

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 10, 2014 – 5:06 pm -

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On Saturday, October 11, the moon slides next to the bright orange star Aldebaran.

Also known as the Eye of the Bull, this orange giant star is located 68 light-years away but will appear only three degrees away from our natural satellite, which is equal to the width of your three middle fingers held together at arm’s length.

Views through binoculars will be particularly pretty as the moon will appear to lie right in the middle of the distinct V-shaped star cluster, the Hyades.


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Luna Looks Upon Sisters

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 9, 2014 – 2:47 pm -

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As the gibbous moon wanes in the eastern sky on Friday, October 10, it can act as a guide to finding the Seven Sisters.

Nestled in the constellation, Taurus, the Bull, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters is an open star cluster that can be seen by the naked eye in suburban skies. Sitting about 400 light-years away, this deep-sky treasure appears to be a fuzzy patch to the naked eye, but with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope this tiny cloud turns into stunning jewels.

When you find the moon, look to the left to find this cluster just ten degrees away, equal to the width of your fist held at arm’s length.


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Blood Red Moon Shines

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 7, 2014 – 2:11 pm -

Head out just before dawn to see your own blood red moon Wednesday, Oct. 8. Total lunar eclipse seen April 2014 by Tomruen from California.

Total lunar eclipse as seen April 2014 by Tomruen from California.

On the morning of Wednesday, October 8 the moon will turn blood red, just in time for an early Halloween treat.

Just before the sun rises, the moon will be eclipsed by our planet’s shadow. Starting at about 5:15 am EDT the moon will look as if little bites of lunar cheese are eaten away by a hungry celestial mouse and will appear to be slowly disappearing. As the eclipse reaches totality, a ruddy hue will appear across the surface of the moon. The moon is not really turning red, of course, this change in colour is due to dust particles in our atmosphere. This strange and magical transformation will occur at about 6:25 am EDT.

Eastern North America will not get a chance to see the moon regain it’s full girth as this eclipse coincides with the rising of the sun and the setting of the moon. However, skywatchers in the west will be able to see the moon reappear. For more information about lunar eclipse viewing in your area, check out my National Geographic article.

If you miss this one, don’t worry, you will be treated to another total lunar eclipse on April 4th, 2015.

Stay tuned for the sun’s turn on October 23 for a partial solar eclipse. You will need to protect your eyes for that event. You can buy them at Astronomers Without Borders, a non-profit organization, at a 15% discount, just in time for the big event.


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Hungry Galaxies Gobble to Grow

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 27, 2014 – 1:56 pm -

Some 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Canis Major, two galaxies begin a merger. Courtesy of  NASA/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)

Some 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Canis Major, two galaxies begin a merger. Courtesy of NASA/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)

In the universe, it’s survival of the largest! Instead of growing younger stars, galaxies tend to cannibalize smaller neighbouring galaxies.

All galaxies start small and gather gas which can in turn become new stars. As more and more mass accumulates, galaxies grow and gain more gravitational strength and therefore more easily pull in their neighbours.

To be gobbled or not to be gobbled? Our own Milky Way is measured to be a on the obese size growing as it snacks on stray star islands, in fact, research shows that we haven’t had a galactic meal for a long time. Although in about 4 billion years, we could be chomping on such neighbours as the Large and Small Magellenic clouds, two nearby dwarf galaxies.

However, we better be on the look out as tables may turn, we may fall victim to big brother Andromeda galaxy found some 2.6 million light-years away from Earth. This won’t be happening any time soon, though, maybe in about 5 billion years.

For more about this and how your can see your own gobbling galaxy, check out National Geographic’s Star Struck Blog.


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Moon Escorts Lord of the Rings

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 25, 2014 – 5:24 pm -

sept272014-600x460Saturn pairs with the moon in Southwestern skies on Saturday, September 27 at around dusk.

Find the  waxing moon and just to the lower left sky watchers will be treated to creamy coloured Saturn. Small backyard telescopes will reveal the gas giant’s magnificent rings, which span nearly the same distance as that between the Earth and its moon.


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Celebrate the First Day of Autumn!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 24, 2014 – 12:26 pm -

moon equinoxAutumn officially started on Monday, September 22 at 10:29 pm EDT in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in our Southern counterpart.

As the Earth’s axis tilts back and forth away or toward the sun, it results in our changing seasons, however, during the Equinox the Earth’s axis is not tilted. As the name implies – Equi meaning Equal and nox meaning night causes an equal amount of hours of daylight as those as night.

Read more about the Equinox on my daily Yahoo column, Geekquinox.


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You Are Here!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 17, 2014 – 4:56 pm -

c2a7e350-353c-11e4-92f5-6d8cb4950a38_0905superclusterIn a new three-dimensional map our Milky Way galaxy, our solar system has been pin pointed in relation to more than 100,000 other islands of stars.

Our galactic neighbourhood contains some hundred million billion suns (100 quadrillion) and stretches some 500 million light years across. Our solar system sits about the third of the way from our galaxy’s centre – about 28,000 light years distant.

For the full story read my Yahoo science column, Geekquinox.


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Swan Reaches for Dumbbell

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 17, 2014 – 9:00 am -

Swan reaches for Dumbbell
Sky-watchers who have small telescopes or binoculars will have a little help from the flying swan on Thursday, September 18 to glance at the Dumbbell nebula.
Those who are live in mid-northern latitudes can look straight overhead to find Cygnus, the swan, also known as the Northern Cross, this bright pattern is easy to see this time of the year, even in the light-polluted suburbs.
Using binocular, scan just one field of view below Albireo, which marks the head of the swan. About 8 degrees under you might notice a faint, tiny cloudlike spot known as the Dumbbell Nebula or Messier 27.
Shining at magnitude 7.3, it is an easy target for even small backyard telescopes. With its double-lobed shape, it looks a lot like its name implies.
Read all the details and get sky charts for these and other events on my National Geographic Viewerís Guide.

578800main_pia14417-43_946-710Sky-watchers who have small telescopes or binoculars will have a little help from the flying swan on Thursday, September 18 to glance at the Dumbbell nebula.

Those who are live in mid-northern latitudes can look straight overhead to find Cygnus, the swan, also known as the Northern Cross, this bright pattern is easy to see this time of the year, even in the light-polluted suburbs.

Using binocular, scan just one field of view below Albireo, which marks the head of the swan. About 8 degrees under you might notice a faint, tiny cloudlike spot known as the Dumbbell Nebula or Messier 27.

Shining at magnitude 7.3, it is an easy target for even small backyard telescopes. With its double-lobed shape, it looks a lot like its name implies.

Read all the details and get sky charts for these and other events on my National Geographic Viewer’s Guide.


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Uranus Paired with Moon

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 10, 2014 – 2:18 pm -

uranus-clouds-nasa-esaOn Wednesday night sky-watchers in eastern Canada, Greenland, and parts of Siberia will see Uranus hide behind the moon.

This occultation will begin at 8 p.m. when the moon is still at the horizon and then reappear at 8:40 p.m. Looking so low to the horizon will be challenging as skywatchers will need a clear line of sight toward the eastern horizon. So take out your binoculars or telescopes and try this low lying peek-a-boo.

Read all the details and get sky charts for these and other events on my National Geographic Viewer’s Guide.


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Best Time to See Northern Milky Way

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 2, 2014 – 2:18 pm -

Early September is the best time of the year to catch the northern Milky Way – our home galaxy in the evening skies.  After nightfall around 9 pm – the three brightest stars visible this time of the year shine nearly overhead and point the way to the grand beauty of this grand collection of stars.
The stellar trio forms what is known as the Summer Triangle.. Each corner’s bright star represents a starting point to an individual constellation. So you get a three for one deal! While not a constellation itself, the Summer Triangle offers a great three-for-one-deal to backyard stargazers. Riding overhead and leading the triangle is Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, the harp. The other points of the triangle are Deneb, the tail of Cygnus the swan, and Altair, the eye of Aquila the eagle.
And if you look carefully you will notice that the brightest section of the Milky Way band also happens to run right through this region of the night sky.  From Montreal suburbs the Milky Way will be a challenge to see, but with binoculars – it is quite an impressive sight to sit back and scan.
However even from a half hour drive from the city- like from Hudson or Ste. Lazare – the Milky Way looks like a pearly luminescent ribbon stretching across the night sky. At first sight it’s easily mistaken for an overhead bank of faint clouds. Gaze at it with binoculars however and you will notice countless number of stars.
The Milky Way is a collection of stars, clouds of gas and dust we call a galaxy. Our Sun and its family of planets live inside this vast spinning pinwheel shaped island of stars. Home to about 100 billion suns, this Frisbee-shaped disk stretches some 100,000 light years across and is about 1000 light years thick. Yet, the Milky Way is only one of over 100 billion other galaxies that are thought to inhabit the Universe.
The hazy band we see in our sky is one of our galaxy’s spiral arms spread out in front of us – filled with countless of millions of stars. Our Sun sits about two-thirds of the way out from the downtown central core of the spiral at about 30,000 light years distant.
Lifting silently across the sky, the Milky Way glows from the north horizon to south horizon throughout the summer. It crosses many constellations from Cassiopeia low in the north, through Cygnus overhead and straight down to Sagittarius in the south. This is where you’ll find the heart of our galaxy. While most of the central hub of this giant pinwheel is obstructed by gas and dust there is a definite bulging radiance in that direction.  Sweeping this region with binoculars and you’ll discover scatterings of all types of interesting clusters and nebulas.

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Early September is the best time of the year to catch the northern Milky Way – our home galaxy in the evening skies.  After nightfall around 9 pm – the three brightest stars visible this time of the year shine nearly overhead and point the way to the grand beauty of this grand collection of stars.

The stellar trio forms what is known as the Summer Triangle. Each corner’s bright star represents a starting point to an individual constellation. So you get a three for one deal! While not a constellation itself, the Summer Triangle offers a great three-for-one-deal to backyard stargazers. Riding overhead and leading the triangle is Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, the harp. The other points of the triangle are Deneb, the tail of Cygnus the swan, and Altair, the eye of Aquila the eagle.

And if you look carefully you will notice that the brightest section of the Milky Way band also happens to run right through this region of the night sky.  From Montreal suburbs the Milky Way will be a challenge to see, but with binoculars – it is quite an impressive sight to sit back and scan.

However even from a half hour drive from the city- like from Hudson or Ste. Lazare – the Milky Way looks like a pearly luminescent ribbon stretching across the night sky. At first sight it’s easily mistaken for an overhead bank of faint clouds. Gaze at it with binoculars however and you will notice countless number of stars.

The Milky Way is a collection of stars, clouds of gas and dust we call a galaxy. Our Sun and its family of planets live inside this vast spinning pinwheel shaped island of stars. Home to about 100 billion suns, this Frisbee-shaped disk stretches some 100,000 light years across and is about 1000 light years thick. Yet, the Milky Way is only one of over 100 billion other galaxies that are thought to inhabit the Universe.

The hazy band we see in our sky is one of our galaxy’s spiral arms spread out in front of us – filled with countless of millions of stars. Our Sun sits about two-thirds of the way out from the downtown central core of the spiral at about 30,000 light years distant.

Lifting silently across the sky, the Milky Way glows from the north horizon to south horizon throughout the summer. It crosses many constellations from Cassiopeia low in the north, through Cygnus overhead and straight down to Sagittarius in the south. This is where you’ll find the heart of our galaxy. While most of the central hub of this giant pinwheel is obstructed by gas and dust there is a definite bulging radiance in that direction.  Sweeping this region with binoculars and you’ll discover scatterings of all types of interesting clusters and nebulas.


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