Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm back again!

I've not been doing much with astronomy the last month or so, but I'm going to start back up again (now that it's starting to get cold, of course!).

In any case, the stars have definitely moved a fair amount since I last payed a whole lot of attention. BAD Laura BAD! I noticed the Pleiades rising in the east, so we should be seeing Orion before too long.

Ah, yes, Orion. Easily recognizable with his belt of three stars. There's some really cool things in Orion - for example, the Orion Nebula. But more on that later!

I think the sky is clear tonight, so I'm gonna take a peek and see what I can see east of Pegasus.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New book... want...

I'm currently up North visiting my fiance. One of the rooms on campus that he frequents is filled with all manner of physics-related texts. I found this big ol' textbook called Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie (and here it is on Amazon). Yes, indeed, it is a big bad textbook filled with chapters containing explanations on calculus and problems at the end of the chapters.

It talks about light, relativity, star formation/life, deep space objects, galaxies, quasars, and more - so much interesting stuff.

It does come with a college textbook price tag, although I think older editions would be less expensive. Maybe I can convince someone to get it for me for Christmas...

No worries, I won't be putting calc problems for you to solve on here! Unless want them. I'm still working on the basics; besides, this is a FUN blog, yes? If you really really want the calc problems I'm sure I can find some for you, though!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Pegasus, the great winged horse... the idea of which was a favorite of mine as a child. I mean, we are talking about a HORSE that can FLY! What could possibly be cooler, except maybe a cheetah that can fly? Ok, so that one was completely my own imagination... in any case, the constellation Pegasus represents the mythological beast of the same name. I was a big fan of the ones in Fantasia:

Here is what Pegasus the constellation looks like:

That's right - Pegasus is upside down when rising in the east. Perhaps he is in the middle of a loop-the-loop?

If you can find Andromeda, you can find Pegasus (and vice versa) - those "back legs" are in fact Andromeda and are not part of Pegasus at all.

Once you learn where it is, the square that makes up Pegasus's body is easy to spot. Four bright stars making something pretty darn close to a perfect square.

Now if only the stars would come out again...


Andromeda, in mythology, is the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia. In astronomy, it is a constellation that is connected to Pegasus - in fact, it looks quite a bit like Pegasus's back legs.

The connecting star is a member of the Great Square of Pegasus - but officially is the brightest member of Andromeda, Alpha Andromedae or Sirrah. Sirrah is one of two stars that belong to two constellations at once.

Andromeda is kind of on the far side (south) of Cepheus and Cassiopeia.

The other cool thing about Andromeda is that it contains the Andromeda Galaxy (see where M31 is marked on the picture? M31 is the Andromeda Galaxy.) It is to the west of Andromeda. Check out the Andromeda in my Fun Astronomy Fact #1!


I found Cepheus in somewhat of a different way than I found the other constellations - I found the constellation first, and figured out what it was later.

That's right - my fiance and I, looking at the stars during our meteor shower watch, noted that there was a group of stars to the west of Andromeda looked like it should be something.

Cepheus's main shape is five stars shaped like a Kindergarten-style drawing of a house - square on the bottom with a triangle on top.

In mythology, Cepheus is a king, husband to Cassiopeia and father to Andromeda, who follow him in the sky as their own constellations. I'll share the story of these characters (along with Perseus, another circumpolar constellation) in the next week.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back again, meteors, and NEW CONSTELLATIONS!

WHOO, sorry about that long break! I was having problems signing in, but I figured it out! So onward!

So, I went out to see the meteors twice on the 12th - once around 5 AM UT (12 Eastern) and once around 8:30 AM UT (3:30 AM Eastern). It was awesome! First time was with my fiance, second time with my brother. The sky was so clear! It was quite beautiful.

Also, I discovered that my yard is not a complete waste of a place to stargaze. If I can maneuver myself so that the trees block out the street lamps, I get a somewhat decent view. In fact, I can now identify three more constellations by sight: Cepheus, Andromeda, and Pegasus. I'll give you some information on each of these in my next three blogs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Perseids 2009 (Meteor shower) coming!

According to the International Meteor Organization's website (www.imo.net) we are due for a meteor shower in the next few days!

Small chunk from the website:
"Although the major northern hemisphere Perseids are badly affected by the last quarter Moon near their best this year, there is the possibility they may produce somewhat increased rates. The usual maximum is due around August 12, 17h30m-20h00m UT, but Esko Lyytinen suggests we may encounter the 1610 Perseid trail earlier on August 12, around 9h00m UT (λo = 139°661). This could produce activity additional to the normal Perseid ZHRs then of a few tens, maybe up to a hundred. Mikhail Maslov confirmed this but for 8h00m UT and with only 10-15 meteors per hour."

They also have a nifty graph. I recommend checking it out.

UT means universal time. It is basically the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so most likely it is ahead of your time. It should be fairly easy to find the difference between where you are and GMT. For example, Eastern time is -5 GMT, so I go back five hours from the UT times given on the site. The "usual maximum" quoted would be from 12:30 to 3:00 PM Eastern time. The other suggested times would be 4 am and 3 am, the earlier ones, before you wake up for your day on August 12.

Even if you aren't able to catch the peak, I still recommend a peek outside. You should still be able to see some meteors - they just won't come as close together.

May your skies be clear and the moon not too bright!