Queen of the Forest

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 29, 2009 – 8:07 am -

Here is a nice shot I got of Cassiopeia constellation shining in all her majesty through the Laurentian forest in late November. There is just something peaceful about gazing at a starry sky between the trees.

Cassiopeia constellation peeking through the trees; Credit: Andrew Fazekas

Cassiopeia constellation peeking through the trees; Canon 450D, 30 sec., ASA 800, 55mm, f/4.5; Credit: Andrew Fazekas


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Posted in Constellations, Stargazing | 127 Comments »

Scoop on Scopes Video

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 28, 2009 – 5:00 pm -

Check out this short video I taped for an online video magazine a couple of summer’s ago. You get to see a few of the different designs of telescopes on the market today. Take particular note of the dobsonian model – it’s one of the most popular types out there today and for good reason – you get a big bang for your buck in terms of size.


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Catch the Queen of the North

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 27, 2009 – 12:58 pm -

Big Dipper points the way to the Queen

Big Dipper points the way to the Queen

Start your evening off with some royal watching as Cassiopeia the queen of the night sky holds court high in evening skies. This lop sided, W-shaped pattern of bright stars is easily spotted high above the northeast horizon all season long. To track it down you can use the Big dipper which sits very low in the sky near the northern  horizon. using the 2 pointer stars of the bowl, , you can extend an imaginary line right through the North Star and on to Cassiopeia. 

According to ancient Greek mythology, Cassiopeia was the vain queen of Ethiopia who constantly boasted that her own beauty rivaled that of almighty Zeus’ own daughters. In retribution he condemned her to the heavens. Cassiopeia now sits on her star-studded throne, eternally circling Polaris – never to set below the horizon.

cassiop-clustersWhile the Queen’s five brightest stars appear to shine with similar brightness, some of their distances differ tremendously. The second brightest of the group, Caph, located at the right-end of the ‘W’ lies only 54 light years distant, while Gamma, the middle-star in the formation sits 650 light years from Earth.
Straddling the band of the Milky Way, the constellation is home to swarms of stars- making it worth sweeping the region with binoculars and small telescopes on any dark, moonless night. Two beautiful star clusters can be seen easily through binoculars. M52 contains about 200 member stars and is 5000 LY away, while M103 is a more loosely organized gang of stars about 8000 light years away from Earth.

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Quick Guide to Choosing Telescopes

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 27, 2009 – 8:27 am -

Quick and Dirty telescope buying guideChristmas is a time to splurge on buying big-ticket items for many, and telescopes easily fit the bill. Regardless what gifts are hot this season, it’s hard to find a kid or grownup who wouldn’t be happy to discover a telescope sitting under the tree. It can be a daunting task however when it comes time to choosing what instrument to buy. How can you make sure that your telescope ends up collecting starlight and not dust in the closet? Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when searching for the perfect scope for that special stargazer.

1. Shop at Astronomy specialty shops instead of general department stores or outlet malls.  The products and services are usually far superior. The staff are usually amateur astronomers themselves and will be able to help you find the scope that will suit your needs. They can also give you a bit of training on how to use your new scope and accessories too.

2. Always check the tripod mount the scope is sitting on. It should be give you stable views without any shakes when viewing the stars. Make sure you try out the telescope by looking through it and see how steady the views are. Any vibration from touching the instrument should dampen within a second or two.

3. The larger the primary mirror or lens, the brighter and clearer the views will be. Also the higher the magnification you will be able to use with it. But remember that the larger the telescope the heavier it will be. You want to make sure the scope gets a lot of use so don’t necessarily get the biggest you can afford. Smaller telescopes that are lighter and more transportable will give you great views of hundreds of objects.

Continue reading more tips on choosing telescopes here and for a quick run down on what kind of telescopes are on the market then check out this great article

Also, check back tomorrow evening when I will be posting a short video guide to telescope types.


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Moon and Pegasus Play

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 26, 2009 – 10:00 am -

The waxing moon and Pegasus constellation

THe Moon points to Pegasus; Click image to enlarge

Take a gander at the waxing gibbous Moon tonight and it will guide you to one of the seasonal landmark constellations of Autumn – Pegasus – the flying horse. The Moon will be sitting right underneath the ‘Great Square’ of Pegasus. This giant square represents the chest of the mythical flying horse , and is only considered an Asterism – a distinctive pattern of stars. The constellation itself contains many more stars that sprawl across this part of the sky, but they are fainter. 

If you have never seen Pegasus before, this is a great opportunity to track it down easily with our neighbouring world pointing the way. Remember though that the Moon’s glare will wash out the nearby stars a bit so try blocking it from direct view and the Great Square should pop into view.

Click here for more background info on Pegasus and its deep sky treasures for those with binos and scopes.


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Tonight Only: Two for One Satellite Deal

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 25, 2009 – 6:13 pm -

After this morning’s undocking of the shuttle Atlantis from the International Space Station you can spot the two spacecrafts fly over your backyard – one after the other. Just think,  these are two of the largest human made objects in space -right before your eyes! If you get clouded out tonight you have another chance to see them both tomorrow, before the shuttle lands in Florida on Friday morning(currently slated for 9:44 am EST – pending good weather). Check out this cool image of the pair sent to Spaceweather.com ealrier this evening. When and where to see them? Find your viewing times on my Sky Tonight page.

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Space Station Through the Clouds

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 24, 2009 – 7:26 pm -

bright space station and docked shuttle Atlantis ISS passing through cloudy night sky

Bright space station and docked shuttle Atlantis ISS passing through cloudy night sky; credit: Andrew Fazekas

I went outside at 5:55 pm EST today to get a shot of the ISS pass above my house in Montreal and was dissapointed to see that it was mostly cloudy. However, the ISS and shuttle together is so brilliant that it shone right through the cloud deck – see streak at centre of photo. Above shot was taken with my Canon 450D,  18mm, 15 second exposure , ASA 400.
So just goes to show you, that you don’t necessarily have to have perfect sky conditions to get a sky show.

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See Shuttle and Station Part Ways

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 24, 2009 – 5:23 pm -

Got clear skies? Then step outside around suppertime and get your last chance to see the shuttle Atlantis and International Space Station docked together above your backyard. The pair together make for an exceptionally bright star-like object gliding across the early evening skies. Because of the large metallic surface area reflecting the sunlight, skywatchers even from brightly lit downtown neighbourhoods can get to spot this famous target.

The orbiter with its 7 crewmembers is scheduled to undock from the station tomorrow, Wednesday morning at 4:53 am EST after which there will be an opportunity to see the two fly in tandem across the overhead evening sky.Atlantis is scheuled to land on Friday morning.

Find your viewing times on my Sky Tonight page.


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Posted in Satellites | 13 Comments »

Sky Show Tonight

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 23, 2009 – 8:42 pm -

nov23-2009

The Moon and jupiter in Conjunction tonight in the southern sky


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Station-Shuttle Flybys

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 22, 2009 – 6:26 pm -

Tonight and over the next few nights are great opportunities to see the International Space Station with the space shuttle docked fly over your backyard. The pair together look like a superbright star zipping across the heavens. In fact it should look like the brightest object in the night sky after only the moon!  Generally the passes will last a couple of minutes and it will appear like an unblinking, bright, white star gliding across the sky  Exact viewing times and directions of where you will see the station in the sky depends on your location – they are different for each city or town.

So best thing to do is click on the Space Station icon on the right-hand sidebar or go to my Sky Tonight page and click on your city of choice or choose Elsewhere, and get your customized viewing table.

For an explanation of how to read your viewing timetable chart click on the image to the left. It is a sample chart for Toronto that gives you a brief rundown on what the main sections mean. If you have never seen the station now is a good time to find it because it will be so bright in the sky. The shuttle undocks and lands on November 25th.


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Posted in Satellites | 148 Comments »