As I write this in early December, 2014, there is one major celestial event left on the calendar: the Geminid meteor shower on the 13th. The “shooting stars” that radiate from the constellation Gemini often produce the year’s most powerful meteor display – if only we could witness it. After all, there aren’t many cloud-free nights in December.
November 20, 2014
The leaves are down, which means the Pleiades are up.
Located in the constellation Taurus, this most dazzling of all open star clusters contains roughly 100 suns. The seven brightest Pleiads – the Seven Sisters – are visible to observers with excellent vision as a glittering agglomeration the width of two full Moons.
November 10, 2014
Allowing the scope to slew around the sky would represent a major shift in my observing philosophy. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t mind hunting elusive celestial prey via star chart and finderscope. I think the hands-on approach strengthens my connection to the heavens.
November 4, 2014
As I write this, October has only one day left in it, yet the first Christmas flyers are already turning up in the mail. They seem to arrive earlier and earlier each year. And as many veteran stargazers know, Christmas is the silly season when it comes to mass-marketed telescopes.
October 30, 2014
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.
October 28, 2014
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!).