Sky Show: Mars and its Rival

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 6, 2010 – 4:46 pm -

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Tonight take a look at the Red Planet climbing up the eastern horizon – you can’t miss it as  the brightest star in the region of sky.  It makes a conveninet guidepost to finding a great open star cluster that is a favourite amongst backyard astronomers. Known affectionately as the Beehive (see telescope image below) and more officially as M44,  it is a loose grouping of what looks like about 40 stars buzzing around together through binoculars, but really explodes into a much larger group of a couple hundred stars in a small telescope under low magnifiation.  It is fairly eas to spot with the naked eye from a dark location and has been known since ancient times – astronomers Hipparchos and Ptolemy made notes of the cluster as the ‘Little Mist’ 2000 years ago!

 
  
click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

 

For those early birds out there tomorrow (Sunday) morning at dawn a striking crescent Moon will pay a quick visit to Mars’ rival – the orange hued, stellar giant called Antares. This 600 light year distant star’s name means ‘against Mars’ since it reminded ancients of the planet’s similar colour in the sky. Antares also is the lead member of the constellation Scorpius which is a favourite destinatino for stargazers when it sits in the southern sky in the late summer evenings.

The cosmic pair will look stunning together hanging low in the eastern horizon as the glow of the rising sun slowly washes over the morning sky. Definitely worth a look see even through your bedroom window.


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