Step outside on these cool autumn nights about an hour after sunset and look up. Cygnus the Swan also known as the Northern Cross is well positioned overhead and easily recognized. The faint glow of the Milky Way is the collective glow of millions of stars too dim to be distinguished individually by the human eye. This stellar cloud of stars is perfectly positioned along the long neck of the swan which is the perfect guide when attempting to glimpse the galactic arms of our Milky Way Galaxy from light polluted suburban skies.
Moving eastward from the great Teapot of Sagittarius, we continue our voyage along the ecliptic to Capricornus – The Goat. This constellation takes up 414 square degrees of sky making it the 40th largest constellation. To date – nine planets have been found orbiting five stars in Capricorn. The stars that make up the asterism are of average brightness, running in the range of magnitude 2.8 to 4.5.
Portrayed in the sky as Canis Major and Canis Minor, Orion the Hunter is not the only one owning pets. Canes Venatici is associated to Bootes the Herdman and can be located high in the sky and below the handle of the Big Dipper. However unlike most of the constellations we encounter, Canes does not possess and asterism except for line connecting Cor Caroli to Chara and yet it is the 38th constellation in area with 465 square degrees of sky.
As we peer up at the night sky, drinking in photons from celestial objects far, far, away, one easily takes on the relaxed position with no schedule. As the months goes by, we greet our favourite Messier object as they emerge from the dawn sky into the blackness of the night. This game is repeated throughout the year until we have recovered all 110 Messier objects. There is however a very tight window of opportunity where all Messiers can be found on a single night.
As we finally leave winter behind this month and jump into spring, we cannot help but notice the days getting longer. As we tick our way through the calendar, our sun’s angle moves a bit farther north, rewarding us with more than three minutes of light per day. However for astronomers this translates into shorter and shorter nights. It is not until the month of June that we only begin observing at about 9:30 p.m. and later local time but for now, our observing window is still on our side.