Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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’.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on 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.