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.

01628

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.


Tags: , ,
Posted in Stargazing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Clouded Cluster Controversy Solved

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 29, 2014 – 4:28 pm -

NOAOPleaides_nrao-600x438

A new study has the favourite Pleiades or Seven Sisters cluster farther than previously thought.

Until 1990 this cloudy cluster was estimated to be 430 light years away, however since then, Hipparcos, the European stellar mapping satellite, measured this winter cluster at 390 light years away. However this new study has now placed the Pleiades at 443 light years.

Traditionally this is a winter sky feature can be seen but if you’re a little bit a night owl you can catch a glimpse of this beautiful sight now. After local time midnight, face the eastern sky and charging up the horizon is Taurus, demarked by a bright orange star, Aldebaran. The constellation is in the shape of a V.  Simply scan up the face of the Great Bull and you will see a fuzzy patch and that will be the Seven Sisters.

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


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Neptune Closest to Earth

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 27, 2014 – 9:46 pm -

neptune_732X520

Friday August 29 is when Neptune, 8th planet from the sun, will be in opposition.

Being the farthest from the sun also means that it will be the closest approach to our little blue dot and visible all night long. During this time, Neptune will be 2.7 billion miles (4.3 billion kilometers) away from Earth. So distant, that it will take the light reflecting off of the planet’s icy clouds  four hours to reach us.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-25-at-11.24.00-AM-600x462

Neptune cannot be seen with the naked eye however with a small telescope or binoculars it can be seen in the Aquarius constellation less than one degree northeast of the 5th magnitude star, Sigma Aquarii. Look for a tiny blue-gray disk among the background of faint stars in the region.


Tags: ,
Posted in Planets, Solar System, Uncategorized | Comments Off

“Siding Spring” Swings by in Southern Hemisphere

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 27, 2014 – 7:18 pm -

Comet Siding Spring. Sky-watchers using binoculars and telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere can preview comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1). The icy visitor will brush by Mars later this fall.
Starting Thursday, August 28, the comet will pass by a series of deep-sky wonders and make for a fine astrophotographic opportunity for the more experienced sky hounds.
First, on Thursday evening, the comet will pose with the globular cluster NGC 362, then on Friday, August 29, it will slide next to the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of our Milky Way’s companion dwarf galaxies.
Finally, Siding Spring will pay a visit to the bright globular cluster called 47 Tucanae.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-23-at-11.04.06-PM-600x443

Starting Thursday, August 28th, the comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will be passing by a series of deep-sky sights making for a great opportunity for a cosmic paparazzi.

Viewers with binoculars or telescopes can see this icy visitor will swing by globular cluster NGC 362 on Thursday, then on Friday, August 29, it will slide next to the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of our Milky Way’s companion dwarf galaxies. Finally, Siding Spring will pay a visit to the bright globular cluster called 47 Tucanae and later this fall, the grand finale, brush by Mars.

So grab your scopes and snap some pics!  Good Luck!


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Hubble Reveals Age of Globular Cluster

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 26, 2014 – 5:45 pm -

IC 4499 can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere very close to Crux, the Southern Cross.

IC 4499 can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere very close to Crux, the Southern Cross.

Just outside our Milky Way glows a globular cluster, IC 4499, suspended in a halo around our galaxy that Hubble’s eye happened to spy.

Floating among hundreds of other clusters, these conglomerations seem to have some of the oldest stars in our universe. After our orbiting observatory dug into the cosmic ball, astronomers have now determined that this globe contains stars as old as 12 billion years old.

Mid-sized IC 4499 can be seen through a small telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, very close to Crux, the Southern Cross, about half way up August’s late evening sky.

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

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


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Send Message to Mars, Donate Future Space Projects

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 23, 2014 – 8:51 am -

mars-earth-comparison

A new fundraising campaign is giving everyman a chance to send a message to Mars in celebration of the 50th anniversary of launch of NASA’s first successful mission to the Red Planet.

UWINGU, a Colorado based non-profit promises to “Beam Me to Mars” for a small donation ranging from $5 to $100. Messages can be as little as a name to a note  or even a photo! Half of the fee will go to transmission costs but the rest will fund scientists, teachers and students through UWINGU’s research grant program. Already Seth Green, comedian and actor, and astronaut Chris Hadfield have added their messages to the campaign.

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


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Morning Sky Show

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 22, 2014 – 11:02 am -

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.57.59 AM

Early bird sky-watchers get a chance to check out a morning sky this weekend.

The crescent Moon is joining Jupiter and Venus to form a bright triangle above eastern horizon. The best time to look is Saturday, August 23rd about 30 to 45 minutes before local sunrise. By Sunday the moon will have sunk below the planets.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Could Life Live Under the Ice Layers of Other Worlds?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 22, 2014 – 10:13 am -

708356main_ellsworth-orig_full

A study conducted in West Antarctica has revealed a whole ecosystem living under an ice sheet.

The surprising discovery centres on an extreme dark and frozen habitat  dominated by a highly diverse amount of microorganisms, about 4000 species.  Finding an isolated biosphere teaming with organisms gives scientists an indication that life could be hidden on planets or moons beyond Earth.

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


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Glowing Star Factories Captured

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 20, 2014 – 10:21 am -

Two giant star clusters tucked away in one of the neighboring arms of our Milky Way galaxy glow in full display in a dramatic new portrait. They also offer a fun opportunity for backyard astronomers.
Using the giant eye of the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers captured two dynamic star-forming regions in the Carina-Sagittarius spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy. A minor limb of our galaxy, the spiral arm consists mostly of gas and dust. Recent research shows that it is surprisingly devoid of stellar activity, making these two star factories real standouts in our galactic neighborhood.
The star cluster on the left side, named NGC 3603, is located some 20,000 light-years from Earth. Its companion on the right, a colorful gas cloud known as NGC 3576, sits much closer to Earth at only 9,000 light-years distant.
NGC 3603 is real stellar jewel box filled with hundreds of young, massive stars, one of the richest open star clusters in the entire galaxy.
Originally, these stars formed behind a veil of gas and dust. However, as they matured, they cleared away much of this material and left behind the glowing clouds that we see today surrounding the hot, young stars.
Meanwhile, NGC 3576 brandishes the same horn-shaped clouds of gas. They were carved by strong stellar winds billowing out from the young stars cocooned within the colorful nebula.
Above the nebula, the two conspicuous black clouds called “Bok globules” are ripe for future star formation as well.
Star formation in the southern Milky Way

From ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two swirling star formations in the southern Milky Way in a smaller arm of our galaxy. Courtesy of ESO/G. Beccari

In a neighbouring arm of our Milky Way lay two glowing giant star clusters that produced this new dramatic photo. These stunning star factories can be seen from viewers’ own backyards in southern latitudes.

At the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers captured what appears to be swirling dust and gas in the Carina-Sagittarius spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy. Surprisingly this minor arm showed very little stellar activity making these beauties standout in this mostly dark part of our neighbourhood.

While visiting South Africa in 1834, British astronomer John Herschel first noted these fiery clusters in the Southern Hemisphere. Now backyard sky-watchers can see these same nebula using a small telescope.

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


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Stargazing, Uncategorized, stars | Comments Off

Moon Sees Red Eye of Bull

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 19, 2014 – 10:58 am -

480861main_lady_luna

The crescent moon was hanging just 8 degrees (just a fist held at arm’s length) to the lower left of the red eye of Taurus that happened Tuesday, August 19 just before dawn.

Otherwise known as Aldebaran, the eye of the celestial bull is a orange giant star located 66 light years away and located in the middle of the Taurus constellation. If you missed this event, there’s much more the see.

On Wednesday August 20, with Venus and Jupiter will be in close conjunction and will become a trio of beauties. Try taking out some binoculars and looking to the upper left of Jupiter to see a cluster of stars called the Beehive (Messier 44).

Get all your observing details for these and other sky events this week at my weekly skywatching column at National Geographic News.

Moon visits Aldebaran. If you managed to stay up for the Perseids, then why not check out the moon parked near the bright orange star Aldebaran? The lunar rendezvous will come to pass just before local dawn on Tuesday, August 19.
The waning crescent moon will be to the lower right of the 66-light-year-distant red giant that marks the eye of the constellation of Taurus, the bull.
The cosmic pair will be appear separated by about 8 degrees, a bit less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off