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The Sky This Month - November 2008

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2008/11/02

Cetus – A Whale Of A Constellation

This month’s constellation plays a role in the famous mythological story called the “Royal Family of Constellations”. As the fable went, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia sacrificed their daughter Andromeda to the Sea Monster, Cetus. Our hero Perseus happened by with his slain prize - the Medusa’s head, stowed in a potato sack.

The Sky This Month - November 2007

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2007/11/04

What a Comet !!!

The biggest story of the month is the unexpected outburst of 17P/Comet Holmes. This outburst occurred over a short 24 hour period starting October 23rd. By the 24th, the comet had increase its brightness from magnitude 17.5 to magnitude 2.5, that is an order of one million times. At the time of writing this article the comet halo is still growing but the inner portion is fading a bit. It is still a very impressive object.

The Sky This Month - November 2009

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2009/11/01

The Legend Continues

Throughout time, the winged horse Pegasus has appeared in many different mythological stories and legends. One of the most famous tales is the “Royal Family of Constellations” where Perseus the hero rescues Andromeda the maiden from the sea monster Cetus. Upon slaying the monster, Perseus and Andromeda ride the winged horse into the sunset.

The Sky This Month - May 2009

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Fri, 2009/05/01

The Leo/Virgo/Coma Galaxy Fest

If you took part in the Messier Marathon this past March, you no doubt had to negotiate the swarm of galaxies in Virgo, Leo and Coma Berenices. Many of these objects do not reside near reference stars, thus making the hunt even more challenging.

But now that the rush is over and the dust has settled, we have time to search for these and other remote objects. This is also a perfect time of year weather wise. As winter’s snows are now a thing of the past, spring nights are quite enjoyable before the hum of mosquitoes drive us indoors..

The Sky This Month - May 2008

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2008/05/01

The High Riding Bear

About an hour after sunset local – look up, way up. What greets you is the most recognized constellation in the sky, Ursa Major – aka the Big Dipper or Big Bear. Taking up 1,280 square degrees of sky, it ranks third behind first place Hydra and second place Libra. With the great beast prancing overhead, you will have a great opportunity to examine its many galaxies through the least amount of atmosphere turbulence and distortion.

The Sky This Month - March 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2009/03/01

Thanks Charles

The name Charles Messier is familiar with amateur and professional astronomers alike. Charles was bitten by the astronomy bug in his younger years, similar to the same way we got hooked on the wonders of the night sky. He had an early passion for the stars and such but two spectacular events swayed him to his future. First was the jaw dropping Great Comet of 1744. It was discovered independently in December of 1743 by Dirk Klinkenberg and then four days later by Jean-Philippe de Chéseaux.

The Sky This Month - March 2008

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2008/03/02

A Faint Constellation

The Winter Triangle consists of three bold, bright suns named Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon which are the alpha stars belonging to Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor respectively. These guideposts are amongst the eighteen brightest stars that make up the winter sky - Taurus, Auriga, Gemini and the three previous mentioned constellations. However, embedded in this triangle is a dim constellation called Monoceros. In fact its alpha star only registers magnitude 4.1, but somehow the asterism depicts a Unicorn.

The Sky This Month - July 2008

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2008/06/26

Globulars A-Plenty

Over the course of the past few months, I have pointed out one or two globular clusters associated with a particular constellation. However as the months tick by, we come to that time of year where these starry blobs containing tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of stars are seen in greater number. One reason why summer time is best for viewing globular clusters is they tend to populate in most part, around the heart of our galaxy, near the nucleus.

The Sky This Month - June 2009

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Mon, 2009/06/01

The Big Bear

If you were to ask anyone to name a constellation in the sky, ninety-nine percent of the time that person would say the Big Dipper or the Big Bear. And why not? Referred by astronomers as Ursa Major or Ursae Majoris, the Big Dipper is the first star pattern we studied in school and is by far the most recognized celestial group. It also helps that Ursa Major is a circumpolar constellation and can be seen somewhere about the northern horizon throughout the year. As you move down in latitude, your chances of seeing it all year round diminish. Distances to these main seven stars of the asterism range from 78 to 123 light years (ly).

The Sky This Month - June 2008

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Wed, 2008/06/04

Star Light…Star Bright

My favourite part of the day is sunset. As time marches on and if the sky is clear, I enjoy watching pastels of blue get progressively darker. As the sky is dimming, I try to catch stars as they start to show themselves one at a time. In June however, this game is short lived as brilliant Arcturus is the first to pop out, barring the obvious Moon or bright planets. Referred as alpha star in the constellation Bootes (the herdsman), it is the third brightest star seen overall after of course the Sun. But if it already dark and you have trouble recognizing it for the first time, take the curved handle of the Big Dipper and follow as it arks to Arcturus. In fact, keep moving south with this curve and you stumble onto the bright star – Spica in the constellation Virgo. Spica is 15th on the list.

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