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Northern Skies

The Sky This Month - July 2009

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Wed, 2009/07/01

The Mighty Hercules

In mythology, Hercules was known for his amazing courage and great strength. It is said this Greek warrior killed a lion with his bare hands. In the night sky, Hercules is the slayer of Hydra and was given an alternative name of Engonasin, meaning "on his knees" or "the Kneeler". To star gazers and astronomers, the asterism of Hercules consists of a dozen stars. However, our celestial strong man lacks significant star brightness and would hard press to identify this asterism from major light polluted areas. The Kneeler is actually up side down with his head pointing to the south and looks like a lop sided letter ‘H’. No less than 7 extra solar planets have been found in this constellation. One of which is HD149026b

The Sky This Month - January 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2009/01/01

More Than A Dozen Beacons

People often ask, “when is a good time to look at the stars”. Of course I jokingly answer with a grin, “when it’s clear”. After the chuckles subside, I continue to state, “anytime of year – even winter”. The fear in their eyes when I mention the ‘W’ word, but yes it can be a great time to observe.

Each month has their special perks, such as spring time is great for galaxies or the summer’s Milky Way in all its glory which extends into the fall. Canadian winters can be brutal at times and that is the main driving force that locks people indoors from November to April. However if you dress for outdoor temperatures, you can enjoy a couple of hours looking up.

The Sky This Month - February 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Wed, 2009/02/11

Giraffe of the North

Camelopardalis the giraffe, is one of those constellations that goes unnoticed for the most part. Lying close to Ursa Minor in the north, this constellation is circumpolar and is visible any time of year but lacks the WOW objects like those belonging to Orion, Andromeda.etc. Camelopardalis is spread over 757 square degrees of sky and is listed 18th in area. The Giraffe is home to 53 NGC objects, most of which are galaxies. As for bright stars, you would be out of luck. Most of its suns are in the fourth magnitude range.

The Sky This Month - December 2008

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Mon, 2008/12/01

Night Of A 100 Clusters

This is the time of year when the Milky Way stretches overhead in all its glory. With Cygnus the Swan setting in the North West all the way east across the Milky Way to Orion the Hunter in the South East, the wealth of open clusters is staggering. Observing in December has its benefits.

The Sky This Month - December 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Tue, 2009/12/01

Perseus The Hero

With sunset nice and early this time of year, one can begin observing after supper hour; just don’t forget to help with the dishes. Rising high in the north east is our Hero of the night. In last month’s article we saw how Perseus saved Andromeda moments before she was to meet her fate with the Sea Monster Cetus.

The Sky This Month - August 2008

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sat, 2008/08/02

Our Galactic Veil

One highlight on clear moonless nights is not a faint nebula or even a single constellation but our majestic Milky Way Galaxy. From a dark site, the familiar veil of light stretches from Perseus in the North East, up through Cygnus overhead and down to the heart of our galaxy – just to the right of Sagittarius.

August nights are now getting a bit longer and cooler to a certain extent. This is a plus when it comes to observing the night sky. No matter if you are hunting down your favourite objects with a telescope or pair of binoculars, to see the arms of the galaxy in all its glory, cannot be put into words.

The Sky This Month - August 2007

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Wed, 2007/08/01

Two Main Events

 

If you are in the process of planning some vacation this month, make sure you set aside a few days for summer night observing. With the Milky Way in all its glory overhead as seen from the countryside, far from city light domes, you will want to stay up till the first sign of astronomical twilight begins. The observing window for this month in which the Moon will not interfere will last from August 8th to 16th with new Moon occurs on the 12th.

The Sky This Month - August 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sat, 2009/08/01

Beware the Scorpion

For those who live in the desert, one must always be on guard of the dreaded scorpion. These creepy crawlers are seen on a yearly basis in arid areas of the globe including some parts of southern Alberta during summer. Of the more than 1,500 species know, most scorpions only delivered the equivalent to a bee sting and are not poisonous. However, for Canadian star gazers, the great scorpion makes its brief appearance in southern skies from May to September.

The Sky This Month - April 2009

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Wed, 2009/04/01

Looking Up To The Twins

As dusk settles, the famous twins of the constellation Gemini come out to play. Castor on the top right and Pollux, the bottom left, represent the twin’s heads and helps orient you to the rest of the asterism. At a distance of close to 50 light years (ly), Castor measures about half the diameter of the Sun and is a true system in itself – comprising of three spectroscopic double stars, orbiting each other. For a challenge move your scope a lunar width (30 arc minutes) below Castor till you come to a couple of 14th magnitude galaxies designated as IC2196 and IC2197.

The Sky This Month - April 2008

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2008/04/03

A Cosmic Ocean of Islands

Our Universe is made up of a staggering amount of starry islands, we call galaxies. With the average galactic population of about 200 billion stars, astronomers believe there are more than 100 billion galaxies residing in the known Universe. These tiny patches of grey can only be glimpsed with a telescope or very large binoculars steadily mounted on a tripod. Like fish in the ocean swimming alone or in schools, galaxies are found by themselves or in small groups and clusters.

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