Archive | October, 2014

Admiring Andromeda

October 30, 2014

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A mere 2.5 million light-years away, M31 is indeed our nearest large neighbour in the universe. Andromeda spans 150,000 light-years of cosmic real estate – two-thirds more than our galaxy – and boasts a population of perhaps 500 billion stars, roughly twice the number in the Milky Way.

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You Never Had It So Good…

October 28, 2014

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Most telescopes in the “good ol’ days” came with simple Huygenian or (if you were lucky) Ramsden oculars. These were as basic as they come — two-element designs that made you feel like you were squinting down a long, dark tunnel to view your target. If you were well off, you might have Kellners (which at least had three lenses) or even orthoscopics (four elements!).

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A Partial Solar Eclipse Fully Enjoyed

October 24, 2014

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As we departed the store at 2:30 p.m., the gloom seemed to be lifting – the sky was brightening in the southwest. Then the Sun appeared!

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Constellation Inconsistencies

October 21, 2014

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Recently I found myself under a pleasingly mild, dark sky in southern Oregon. Perhaps it was the unfamiliar latitude, or the high treeline, but for a moment, I was briefly disorientated as I sought familiar constellations. My eye chanced upon a big arc of 2nd-magnitude stars spanning some 45 degrees. What constellation is that?

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Long-Gone Star Groups

October 16, 2014

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Poor Musca, swatted around by celestial cartographers during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, no longer exists. A number of constellations – mainly smaller ones created over the last several centuries – have been deleted, their stars reassigned to adjacent groups. (The stars of Musca Borealis were given to Aries.) Today, 88 constellations are officially recognized by astronomers, but for centuries the number varied according to the unregulated whims of night sky observers and chart makers.

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Cursing the Weather . . . Again

October 14, 2014

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Sometimes it seems the weather gods hate astronomers — especially Canadian astronomers. Not only is it possible to go whole months without seeing a starry sky, whenever there’s a special event — such as a meteor shower, big auroral display, or rare conjunction — chances are clouds will book a date with you and your telescope. And so we come to October’s early morning total lunar eclipse.

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The Rural Stargazer

October 8, 2014

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“I stood out on the lawn and felt insignificant when looking up at the stars,” commented Gord. “The sky was filled with constellations of twinkling light.” Alas, his musings made me sigh. The midnight sky above my house is usually a sickly greenish-grey.

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Rebirth of a Small Telescope

October 2, 2014

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Stationed next to me is an expensive Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope that looks about the same size as my Newtonian. The owner asks me how much my scope cost. He’s shocked when I tell him $60.00.

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