Catch a Nova

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 17, 2015 – 1:34 pm -

Find the Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius, peak under its lid to see an active nova.

Find the Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius, peak under its lid to see an active nova.

This weekend a nova was identified in the Sagitarius constellation, thanks to the eagle eyes of John Seach of Australia.

Named the un-glamerous PNV J18365700-2855420, this star was never before seen until star-gazer Seach saw it brighten to magnitude 6.3. This site was verified by Japanese amateur astronomers and confirmed that it is intensifying now to 5.3 magnitude, making it barely visible to the naked eye from a dark location, but easily with binoculars. Scientists will not know how bright it will get, but keen observation over the next few days will tell a better story.

Novae are the violent explosions of the outer atmosphere of tiny white dwarf stars. These Earth-size, hot cores of long-dead sunlike stars have a companion star from which they gravitationally siphon off gases. Over time, this matter accumulates on the surface of the white dwarf. When the star reaches critical temperature, it ignites in a massive thermonuclear explosion that can be seen thousands of light-years away.

To view this intriguing event, skywatchers will need to rise early in the Northern Hemisphere and look low on the southeastern horizon. Look for the constellation Sagittarius, which contains an asterism called the Teapot. Once found, train binoculars to just under the triangle teapot lid. Good Luck!

For more information about this or other celestial events, visit my National Geographic column StarStruck.


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Spotting the Green Giant

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 4, 2015 – 1:05 pm -

Catch a glimpse of the Green Giant with help of Venus.

Catch a glimpse of the Green Giant with help of Venus.

Wednesday, March 4, North Americans have a chance to observe the illusive green planet, Uranus.

Just below a super-birght Venus, the seventh planet from the sun will seem to pale in comparison. Standing at a fifth magnitude and just about five degrees below our sister planet, will be this pale-green dot.

Keen skywatchers can gander a peek in dark pristine skies away from the light dome of cities and don’t forget to bring binoculars as they will be your best friend as you find this secretive icy giant.

For more information about this or other celestial events, check out my National Geographic blog, StarStruck.


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Moon Visits Leo

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 3, 2015 – 3:01 pm -

The Moon rides by Regulus, the heart of the lion on the night of Tuesday, March 3.

The Moon rides by Regulus, the heart of the lion on the night of Tuesday, March 3.

On Tuesday, March 3, the moon, now about 96% full will be seated next to the heart of the lion, Regulus.

Last week, the moon passed through the Bull, but this week, the moon will pay a visit to Leo. Separated by just four degrees in the sky, the bright star Regulus is really 79 light-years away, while the moon, only 1.3 light seconds distant. Regulus is the brightest star in the Leo constellation and rates as the 21st brightest star in the night sky and burns blue-white.

Imagine that when the light from Regulus began its journey to the Earth, the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt won his second term as president of the United States and Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind.

For this and other celestial happenings, visit my National Geographic blog, StarStruck.


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Love and War Part Ways

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 26, 2015 – 5:16 pm -

Mars and Venus cross paths over the next few nights.

Mars and Venus cross paths over the next few nights.

Just after sunset, on February 27, Mars and Venus will slowly part ways in the western sky.

On Friday, these two inner planets will be appear about 2.7 degrees apart but over the next few nights, Venus will rise while Mars will sink into the sunset.

The seventh planet from the sun, Uranus will be about 5 degrees from Venus. Using our sister planet as a guide post, sky gazers with telescopes or binoculars will be able to spy the green giant. While Uranus is four times larger in diameter than Venus, our twin planet outshines it by 10,ooo times. Good Luck!

For more about this and other stellar events, check out my National Geographic blog, StarStruck.


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Moon Caresses Eye of Bull

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 24, 2015 – 5:16 pm -

Aldebaran and the Moon make a celestial portrait, Wednesday evening.

Aldebaran and the Moon make a celestial portrait, Wednesday evening.

As the moon moves through the constellation Taurus, by Wednesday, February 25, it will be paired with the red eye of Taurus, the star, Aldebaran.

Visually, the red giant star will be parked just about a half of a degree from the quarter moon making for a stunning portrait, however, the moon is only about 1.27 light seconds away from Earth, Aldebaran lies about 66 light-years distant.

For more about this and other celestial events, check out my National Geographic column, StarStruck.


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Morning Mercury

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 24, 2015 – 3:43 pm -

Watch Mercury rise before the sun on Wednesday, February 25 for Southern Hemisphere Observers

Watch Mercury rise before the sun on Wednesday, February 25 for Southern Hemisphere Observers

Wednesday, February 24 will feature the closest planet to our Sun, Mercury.

Folks in the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to the best views of the rocky planet for the year. Just 30 minutes before the sun rises, Mercury will climb to 20 degrees above the eastern horizon. To the naked eye, Mercury will appear as a faint dot, but will stand out well against the sun’s glare when viewed through binoculars. Happy Viewing, Early Risers!

For more of this week’s sky events, check out my National Geographic column, StarStruck!


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Moon Trios with Taurus Clusters

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 23, 2015 – 11:06 pm -

Skywatchers are treated to a trio of beauties - the waxing moon, Pleiades cluster & Hyades cluster

Skywatchers are treated to a trio of beauties - the waxing moon, Pleiades cluster & Hyades cluster

On Tuesday, February 24, the swelling crescent trios with two bright star clusters.

Nestled in the Taurus constellation are a couple of stunning star clusters, the Pleiades and Hyades. This makes for a brilliant grouping as the moon passes through the constellation of the bull. While the moon sits at 384,000 km away, the Pleiades is 300 light years away, and the Hyades 160 light years distant.


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The Moon Helps to Find The Crab

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 29, 2015 – 2:35 pm -

The faint Crab Nebula is a remnant of a Super Nova observed 1054 A.D. Try seeing it on Friday, January 30 when the moon will help guide the way.

The faint Crab Nebula is a remnant of a Supernova observed 1054 A.D. Try seeing it on Friday, January 30 when the moon will help guide the way.

As the waxing gibbous moon continues its journey through the Taurus constellation, it stops by the tip of one of its horns.

This star known as Zeta Tau acts as a convenient guidepost to the beautiful Crab Nebula. This web of tangle of colours is the best known examples of a supernova remnant, the glowing ashes of a shattered star. The supernova was noted in the year 1054 A.D. by Japanese and Chinese astronomers.

Also known as Messier 1, this faint nebula will be about five degrees to the right of the moon, less that the width of three middle fingers held at arm’s length. M1 shines at about magnitude 9 making it just visible through binocular but an easy target for even small telescopes.

For more information about this celestial event and more, check out my StarStuck Blog at the National Geographic Web Site.


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Moon Marks Eye of Bull

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 28, 2015 – 2:35 pm -

Moon next to Aldebaran, Thursday, January 29.

Moon next to Aldebaran, Thursday, January 29.

Thursday, January 29, the moon will slide close to Aldebaran, the star that marks the eye of the bull.

This red giant is a dying star that is about 65 light-years from Earth. Imagine that the light that we see today left the star in 1950 when Harry Truman ordered the development of the first hydrogen bomb and the Korean War broke out.

For more information about this celestial event and more, check out my StarStuck Blog at the National Geographic Web Site.


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Comet Lovejoy Passes Orion

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 6, 2015 – 5:38 pm -

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Catch the comet near Orion on Wednesday, January 7th.

Comet Lovejoy has been gracing our holiday skies will brighten in the coming days. As this greenish comet glows brighter, it will appear to pass Rigel, a bright star in the Orion constellation.

Hunt down this icy visitor just after night fall on Wednesday, January 7. It is now the closest it will get to the Earth at 70 million kilometres away and appear to brighten from 5th to 4th magnitude.

For more information about this celestial event and more, check out my National Geographic Starstruck column.


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