Planning An Observing Session Plus A Surprise Shower !!!
Observing the night sky comes in two flavours. The first is the spur of the moment feeling of grabbing binoculars or a small scope as we fly out the door. Here we spend about 20 minutes looking at our favourite Messier or NGC objects as well as the moon or planets thus satisfying our need to observe photons. The other more involved task is planning a lengthily observing session either in the backyard or an out of town expedition. Lunar and planetary observing and photography do not need dark country skies.
The mighty lion makes itself visible as it climbs the sky on these April nights. The outline of the familiar beast is quite recognizable as related to the Big Dipper. The Dipper stars form a pot with a handle and if you were to drill a hole in the celestial pot, water would pour onto the back of Leo. The Lion’s front half is portrayed by a sickle or backwards question mark starting from the bright star Regulus. This star is about five times the size of our sun and about 160 times brighter.
When someone utters the words Milky Way, we immediately associate the grand veil seen overhead during warm, mosquito ridden summer nights. At that time of year it is quite easy to trace out the collective glow of millions of suns stretching from the famous W of Cassiopeia the Queen in the north to Sagittarius the Archer in the south. To experience this marvellous sight under dark country skies is beyond words. Resting above the southern horizon is the nucleus or heart of our home galaxy.
What has been the buzz in the astronomical community for the past year is now in the home stretch. Discovered on Sept 21, 2012, Comet ISON was first though to be a daytime comet with an estimated magnitude -16, when it rounds the Sun at a very close distance on Nov 28. But recent observations now paint a slightly different picture. All comets are a bit of a mystery and seems to have a mind of their own - ISON is no different.