Aquarius The Water Bearer
Sadalsuud the beta star, is located ten degrees from Sadalmelik. By coincidence, this G class supergiant star is also going through its final stages of life. It measures 50 solar diameters across (10 diameters less than Sadalmelik) and has a surface temperature of 5,800 K or the exact temperature as our Sun.
If you want to see a star that is a parent to no less than four planets and the closest to our solar system, locate Gliese 876. First find the magnitude 3.2 star Delta Aquarii in the southern portion of the constellation’s boundary. Using the chart, Gliese 876 should be about two degrees north of this star. At only 15 light years down the cosmic street, Gliese 876 shine about tenth magnitude and is a target for upcoming star parties or just showing off to the neighbours.
Moving back to the western section of Aquarius, relocated Sadalsuud and then move your scope about nine degrees south west until you come across the Saturn Nebula. Designated as NGC 7009 the Saturn Nebula glows at magnitude 8.0 with a magnitude 11.5 central star. Its name comes from the somewhat resemblance of our famous ringed planet as seen almost edge on. This stellar remains of a once thriving star is located about 2,500 light years from us.
Continue almost in the same direction for another three degrees to the small and distant M72. The cluster is estimated to be 106 light years width with a population of about 100,000 suns. Appearing grayish in colour, M72 resides some 53,000 light years from us and is one of the most remote globular cluster. For a challenge, try to spot a magnitude 14.3 galaxy. Catalogued as UGC 11814, this smudge only measures .9 arc minutes wide. Good luck with this one.
There are now three interstellar visitors appearing in our night skies. Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková. This comet is presently in the southern part of Leo and is glowing at magnitude 9.1 but is moving away from us and getting fainter by the day.
Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd has been a well placed target all summer and is now in the lower part of Hercules. As October moves on, Comet Garradd is at magnitude 8.0 and continues to brighten to its predicted brightest of 7.0 in February 2012.
And last but not least is Comet P/2006 T1 Levy. David’s comet is now in Andromeda and is presently at magnitude 11.2. Comet Levy will continue to brighten through the rest of the year and is expected to peek at magnitude 7.0 by the third of the January.
The full Hunter’s Moon will occur on the 11th and will be the smallest moon of 2011 and new moon will occur on the 26th. With the moon absent, try to locate the zodiacal lights in the east before sunrise. The light is created by sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust.
Until next month, clear skies everyone.