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Northern Skies

The Sky This Month - February 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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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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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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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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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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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.

The Sky This Month - July 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Fri, 2011/07/01

Ophiuchus – The Mystery Constellation

The world of astrology and those who follow its daily predictions were delt a crushing blow in the second week of 2011. Over night, the dates of the signs were revamped and a mysterious thirteenth house was added. People woke up to find out they were no long who they thought they were. For instance, if someone went to bed a Capricorn, they woke up as a Sagittarius, etc. Personally, it was about time these dates changed because of the 26,000 year wobble called precession. The Sun now appears in the constellation to the left from where your sign used to be. As for this mysterious pattern thrown into the mix – there is no mystery.

The Sky This Month - August 2011

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Tue, 2011/08/02

The Glory Of The Night

August is a busy time for campsites and cottages as city dwellers plan their vacation. It is that special time when the family or a group of friends plan their meals, pack the car and drive to the wilderness. If weather is on your side, the outdoor experience can be a thing of beauty. Between the sweet smell of fresh air, the peace and quiet along with first hand witnessing nature in all its glory, camping can be a memorable experience. Of course physical activities such as hiking, swimming or even fishing are enjoyed during daylight hours. However, when the Sun’s last photons disappear behind the mountains and out of view, the night sky begins to change.

The Sky This Month - September 2011

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
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Thu, 2011/09/01

Looking Up At Royalty

Perched high in northern skies are two figures of pure royalty. King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia were also portrayed as main characters in a famous mythological story. The “Royal Family of Constellations” involves the said King and Queen, as they sacrifice their daughter Andromeda to the sea monster Cetus. But Perseus saves Andromeda in the nick of time and both fly off on the winged horse Pegasus.

The Sky This Month - December 2007

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Mon, 2007/12/03

Winter’s River

Eridanus the River is a large slinky constellation that continues far below our south Canadian horizon. In fact the alpha star named Achernar shining as bright as Procyon at magnitude 0.5 is located at declination -57 degrees. This long stretch of celestial landscape is listed as the 6th largest in the sky and is well populated with many galaxies.

The Sky This Month - February 2008

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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Fri, 2008/02/01

The Twins and an Orangey Moon

Ranked as the seventeenth and twenty-third brightest stars, the guide posts to the Twins of Gemini are now located high in the night sky. Their names respectively are Pollux and Castor and shine at magnitudes 1.14 and 1.57. Pollux is a giant orange star that seems to have a hot outer corona like out Sun. It does possess a fainter companion too close to be resolved by amateur telescope. Although it is brighter than Castor Bayer for some reason gave the designation of alpha (the brightest) to Castor. With a good telescope, three of Castor’s stars can be resolved; however these are really three double stars giving us a total of six suns that appear as one to the unaided eye.

The Sky This Month - January 2008

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Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
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Gary Boyle, Ottawa
Post Date: 
Fri, 2008/01/04

Owning the Winter Sky

The constellation Orion is synonymous with frosty Canadian nights. With its majestic collection of bright suns and overall size, it truly owns the winter sky. Orion the Hunter lists as 26th in area as it holds the deed to 594 square degrees of celestial real estate.

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