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The Sky This Month - March 2010

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.

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The Sky This Month - October 2010

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.

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The Sky This Month - January 2010

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.

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The Sky This Month - January 2011

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.

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The Sky This Month - February 2011

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.

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The Sky This Month - April 2011

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.

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The Sky This Month - May 2011

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’.

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The Sky This Month - June 2011

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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The Sky This Month - July 2011

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.

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The Sky This Month - August 2011

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.

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