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Northern Skies

The Sky This Month - June 2010

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2010/06/03

Draco – Circumpolar Beast

The dragon of the night is out there. Not behind the bushes at your favourite out of town dark observing site, nor is it hibernating in an isolated cave. The dragon of the night hangs high overhead, wrapped part way around Ursa Minor in the north. With our beasty friend located between the two celestial bears, it never appears to set. Constellations and stars that are visible all year round are called circumpolar.

The Sky This Month - July 2010

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2010/07/01

Ophiuchus, One Of The Originals

When the astronomer, mathematician and geographer Ptolemy drafted and introduced the original 48 constellations of the night sky to the world, Ophiuchus the Snake Holder made that famous list. Astrology depicts Ophiuchus holding a long snake that actually comprises two constellations – the snake’s head Serpens Caput on the west side and Serpens Cauda, the snake’s tail on the east side.

The Sky This Month - March 2010

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Sun, 2010/02/28

The Illusive Crab

If I were to hand the average person a star chart of the constellation Cancer the Crab and asked them to find it in the sky, I am sure they would be hard pressed in identifying it. Unlike bright celestial patterns such as Orion, the Big Dipper and so on, Cancer is not the easiest to recognize. However to the seasoned astronomer who know the sky like the back of their hand, Cancer is flanked with the Gemini Twins to its west and Leo (Major) the Lion to its east. Both of these bordering constellations possess bright suns.

The Sky This Month - October 2010

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Fri, 2010/10/01

Giddy Up Pegasus

Other than the familiar circle, a square is one of the easiest shapes to recognize. After all, it consists of four equal length sides with its corner measuring perfect 90-degree angles. If I were to ask you to point out a nonagon in the night sky, not knowing it is a nine-sided polygon with 140 degree inside angles, you would never find it. However, you would have better luck with the common square.

The Sky This Month - January 2010

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Sat, 2010/01/02

Star Renewal

It is sometimes hard to convey the feeling of standing under a moonless winter sky. Distant suns of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini as well as Canis Minor and Major are bright, crisp and overall – mesmerizing. Other than following the nightly dance of the Moon as it orbits Earth or tracking the planets as they slide across the familiar constellations along the ecliptic, one might think that is all that changes in the galaxy. But our Milky Way Galaxy, with its population of an estimated two hundred billion stars is changing. It is the time scale that is the key factor.

The Sky This Month - January 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Tue, 2011/01/04

Big Horns, Little Horns

Of the 88 constellations that divide our dear skies, 40 portray the starry outline of animals. Some appear warm and cuddly like Lepus the Hare or the majestic winged horse Pegasus while others seemed wild and ferocious like Ursa Majoris. At this time of year none is more dangerous than Taurus the Bull. With its prominent V shaped horns, thanks to the Hyades cluster located 150 light years from us, mythology paints the picture of the bull taking on Orion the Hunter in battle. The entire cluster spans some five degrees across with the prominent first magnitude star named Aldebaran.

The Sky This Month - February 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Tue, 2011/02/01

A Dozen Bright Dots

There is something about cold winter nights that make the stars shine a bit brighter than usual. Could it be the lack of haze – the kind we experience on sultry July and August nights? Or could it be the fact we can only last for a short period of time in the extreme cold. These are all valid reasons but the fact of the matter is Orion the Hunter and its neighbouring constellations represent a dozen of the brightest stars in the winter sky.

The Sky This Month - April 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Fri, 2011/04/01

The Serpent Rises

If you have had the chance to read a mythological story or two as they relate to the night sky, you would agree some if not all are far fetched. They do make fine entertainment around the camp fire though. Some of these stories take into account two, three or more constellations. One such tale involves the mighty Hercules. Of course we know him as the strongest and most courageous of all. His brute strength not only helped him defeat Leo the Lion as well as Draco the Dragon, but he went on to his toughest challenge - Hydra the Water Serpent.

The Sky This Month - May 2011

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Wed, 2011/05/04

A Smorgasbord Of Galaxies

The sky above offers many types of objects to hunt and enjoy. We scan the night either visually, using star charts and then star hop with telescopes. Keen eyesight is a must for a successful hit. One can always click on a control pad of a computerized telescope what magically moves to the object’s programmed coordinates. No mater what mode you choose to seek out these sometimes hard to find objects, your labours will not be in vain. The celestial menu includes diffuse, emission or planetary nebulae, star clusters or even colourful double and multiple star systems. However these objects for the most part, belong to our Milky Way Galaxy and pretty well in the ‘stellar neighbourhood’.

The Sky This Month - June 2011

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Wed, 2011/06/01

Puff The Draco Dragon

The beauty about circumpolar constellations is that they never set below the horizon. From forty-five degrees north latitude, we can enjoy such familiar patterns as Ursae Majoris (Big Dipper), Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Camelopardalis, Draco and of course Ursae Minoris (Little Dipper) which sports the North Star. For the rest of the constellations, that depends how high or low in declination they reside. This month, we will take a look at the Draco the Dragon.

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