: By Glenn ChapleAutumn is a season of promise for the stargazers. The nights are getting longer, the air clearer, and those pesky summer mosquitoes are a thing of the past. In a few months, Orion and his magnificent wintry retinue will take center stage. While the autumn night sky appears devoid of bright stars, it’s still home to a rich array of double stars. Here are ten of the best:
: By Glenn ChapleThe winter night sky, dominated by mighty Orion, is rich with deep-sky splendors. If you can brave the cold, you’ll be rewarded by some of the finest double and triple stars the night sky has to offer.
: By Glenn ChapleLast month, we explored the galaxy M33, a notoriously difficult telescopic target due to its extremely low surface brightness. For the same reason, M74 is even more challenging; in fact, many consider it the most visually demanding of all the Messier objects.
: By Glenn ChapleIt’s appropriate that the constellation Gemini, the Twins, should be home to a numerous collection of double stars. Here are ten stellar – pardon the pun - examples (data from the Washington Double Star Catalog (WDS).
: By Glenn ChapleI’m a big fan of “off-the-beaten-path” sky objects. One of my favorites is the little-known double star Struve 817 - the 817th double star catalogued by the German-born Russian astronomer F. G. W. Struve during a survey conducted between 1824 and 1827.
: By Dave HuestisJust as the summer sky has the Summer Triangle, the winter sky has its own special asterism, and this one is huge and includes a total of eight bright stars. It’s called the Winter Circle or Winter Hexagon. I’ll explain why you can get both shapes from the stars.
: By Glenn ChapleEpsilon Pegasi (Enif) is an optical double star comprised of magnitude 2.5 and 8.7 component stars separated by 144 seconds of arc. Pairs this wide usually don’t merit much consideration, but wait! Epsilon Pegasi has a surprise for us.
: By Glenn ChapleNGC 7293, the Helix Nebula, is the nearest planetary nebula (distance ~ 450 LY) and largest in apparent size (12 by 16 arcminutes). Moreover, it’s a 7th magnitude object. An easy telescopic target? Hardly! The magnitudes listed for deep-sky objects are often misleading, and the Helix Nebula is a prime example.
: By Glenn ChapleWhat is the most colorful double star in the night sky? Most amateur astronomers would vote for β Cygni (Albireo). Others might cite γ Andromedae (Almach), ι Cancri, ξ Bootis, or η Cassiopeiae. Sadly overlooked is a double star that might challenge them all – h 3945 in Canis Major. It is arguably the most colorful double star in the winter sky and, in fact, has been nick-named the “Winter Albireo.”
: By Glenn ChapleYou won’t need a finder chart to locate this month’s featured sky object. It’s the first magnitude star β Orionis, better known by its proper name Rigel. Seventh brightest star in the night sky, Rigel dazzles us with a diamond-white color; especially striking when compared with Orion’s other first-magnitude star, the ruddy-hued Betelgeuse.
: By Glenn ChapleAre you looking for something new and different to add to your late winter/early spring star party repertoire – a cosmic showpiece guaranteed to elicit a gasp of surprise and wonder from anyone who peers into your telescope? I suggest the double star alpha (α) Geminorum, better know as Castor. One glance at these sparkling magnitude 2.0 and 2.9 diamonds and it’s easy to understand why William Herschel’s son, John, considered Castor the finest double star in the northern sky.
: By Glenn ChapleHave you seen “ET” lately? Not that cute little alien in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 movie. I’m referring to the ET-mimicking open star cluster NGC 457 in Cassiopeia. Discovered by William Herschel in 1787, NGC 457 is often overlooked because of its proximity to the Messier cluster M103.
: By Dave HuestisEveryone with an interest in astronomy probably has a favorite constellation. It may be because of the star pattern’s mythology, or its shape in the sky, or for the beautiful objects that reside within its boundaries, or possibly because it’s your astrological sign.
: By Glenn ChapleConsider the spiral galaxy M33 in Triangulum. Listed as a 6th magnitude object, it’s notoriously difficult to view in telescopes. M33 is elusive because its light is spread over an area four times that of the full moon.
: By Francine JacksonWith the winter season beginning this month, the nights are the longest, and the days slowly begin to get colder. As such, we celebrate both the Full Cold Moon and the Full Long Night Moon. And, because we also celebrate the holiday season at this time of year, this can also be called the Moon Before Yule, although this year it takes place afterwards, on December 28th.
: By Glenn ChapleIt’s understandable that M78 should be overlooked by backyard astronomers. Not far away is the much brighter, much more easily found, and much, much more spectacular M42 - the Orion Nebula. This deep-sky masterpiece was spectacular even through the eyepiece of my 3-inch scope. M78, on the other hand, was a faint blob that seemed to sport an off-center nucleus.
Eyes on the Sky makes it easier for anyone to find objects in the night sky and/or learn how to use astronomy equipment, and educates about smarter lighting practices. Take a look at the weekly videos to learn what YOU can find in the night sky, this week - naked eye, binocular and telescopic objects are always discussed, so anyone can look up and see planets, stars and other deep sky objects.
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