Archive for the ‘What’s up?’ Category

  • What’s Up?:Aquarius & the Helix Nebula

    Oct 5, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England As early as 2,000 B.C.E., the Babylonian and Egyptian cultures predicted the seasons by the changing of the night sky. One of the most important events in these changing seasons was the regular flooding of their respective great rivers, which could bring not only destruction, but also nutrient rich sediments to their fields, and ensure another season of fertile and life-sustaining crops. Thus, the Water Bearer came to be known as the bringer of waters, both good and bad. The Hindu zodiac labeled this cluster of stars Kumbha or “water pitcher.” The Babylonians knew it as GU.LA — “The Great One” — being the god Ea holding an overflowing vase. Ancient Egyptians first named it “Aquarius,” who, dipping his jar into the river, began the season of Akhet or the Inundation of the Nile River. Along with the modern constellations “Cetus” the whale, “Pisces” the fish, and “Eridanus” the river, the water themed region of the sky that Aquarius resides in is oft times called “The Sea.” Most of the stars in Aquarius are dim and not of great mention, but we have recently found that several of its stars do host planetary systems. Of these, the closest to Earth is Gliese 876, just 15 light years distant, and hosting four known planets, three gas giants and one possibly a rocky terrestrial body about six times the

  • What’s Up?: Beehive Cluster

    Aug 31, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England On the evening of 6 September, the moon will make a close (1˚04’) approach to one of the oldest studied star clusters, the Beehive Cluster, in the constellation Cancer. Ancient Chinese astronomers labeled the accompanying constellation as the Ghost, with the cluster itself known as Jishi Qi or “exhalation of piled-up corpses” as the breath coming from the ghost. In the Mediterranean civilizations, Hipparchus listed it in his 130 BC star catalog as Nephelion, meaning “Little Cloud,” and the Greek poet Aratus as Achlus or “Little Mist,” while the average Greeks and Romans saw it as a manger from which two neighboring donkeys were eating, with its fuzzy naked-eye appearance being the loose straw. Galileo famously turned his eye and telescope to the cluster in 1609, resolving 40 individual stars in the cluster. Charles Messier took a gander in 1769 and added it to his famous list of sky objects, cataloging it as Messier 44 or M44. To the naked eye, we can see the same thing that our ancient counterparts observed — albeit through a little more light pollution. It will appear as a fuzzy spot in the sky, commonly mistaken for a nebula of gas. But with even the smallest telescope or binoculars, you can begin to see the individual stars. In the center of the cluster are the larger, brighter red giants with the

  • What’s Up?: Sagittarius

    Aug 3, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England August in Northern Arizona gives us some of the best views of the galaxy in which we reside — the Milky Way. So-called since ancient times, the Milky Way is named for its dense clusters of stars that create a “milky” swath across the sky. From our study of other galaxies, we’ve deduced that our own is a barred spiral galaxy with arms of star systems and nebulae stretching up to 180,000 light years from end to end. At the center of the Milky Way — as well as at the center of almost all other known massive galaxies — lies a super-massive black hole named Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-Star”). The many stars in relatively close proximity to each other and in perpetual orbit around Sagittarius A* form the basis of one of the longest recognized constellations, Sagittarius. Sagittarius is the archer in Babylonian and Greek mythology, usually depicted as a half-man/half-horse, i.e. a centaur, drawing his bow. His arrow points to the heart of Scorpius — the bright red star Antares — should the scorpion ever attempt to attack Hercules after his triumph over the hunter Orion. The most recognizable stars of the constellation form what is known as “The Teapot,” with a handle and spout. The Milky Way rises to the Northwest as a puff of steam rising from the kettle. The handle of

  • What’s Up?: Scorpius

    Jun 29, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England The night skies of Prescott in July offer some amazing sights — at least on the nights that aren’t obstructed by seasonal monsoon storms. One of the easiest constellations to find in the summer months is Scorpius, the Scorpion. With references to the scorpion coming from ancient Babylonian and Hindu cultures, it’s one of the 48 constellations identified in second-century writings by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Other cultures viewed the collection of stars differently. In Java, it was seen as both a swan and a leaning coconut tree, while in Hawaii it was the fishing hook of the demigod Maui. Greek mythology tells how Orion, great hunter that he was, boasted that he would kill every animal on Earth. The goddess Artemis offered protection to the creatures, sending a scorpion to do battle with Orion. The scorpion prevailed in the fight, and Zeus raised the pair to the heavens — the triumphant scorpion for his valiant fight, and the hunter as a visual reminder to humans not to be prideful. Easily identifiable in the early evening by looking above the Southeastern horizon, the hooked tail and scorpion’s claws meet at the bright red star Antares, often dubbed the “rival of Mars” for its intense coloring. Other notable features in the constellation include: U Scorpii, the fastest known recurrent Nova (which could brighten to a magnitude of

  • What’s Up?: Planets

    Jun 1, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England The Northern Arizona night skies of late spring/early summer 2018 are dominated by planets. Some of the easiest objects to spot because of their relative proximity to Earth and the Sun, planets are often only outshone by our Moon. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will all be visible throughout the month, each characterized by its unique features. • Venus: This planet likes to hang around the horizons shortly after sunset and/or before sunrise. It’s usually a bright yellowish color due to its dense “Runaway Greenhouse Effect” atmosphere. With a decent telescope or good binoculars, you may see it as a crescent — similar to a quarter Moon. • Mars: Red in color from its oxidized soils and thin atmosphere, this planet rises later in the evening this month and shines until dawn. • Jupiter: The “King of the Planets” always puts on a good show, with the four Galilean moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto — dancing around in space. Sketch what you see on consecutive nights and you’ll notice the moon’s bouncing around as they orbit this gas giant. You might even be able to see the cloud bands wrapping around the planet with storms that could swallow Earth whole. • Saturn: When you first spot this planet, it may look ovular, but as you adjust your focus you’ll see the massive rings extending outward

  • What’s Up?: The Orion Nebula

    May 4, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England One of the most widely recognized constellations in the world is Orion. Ancient cultures from around the world identified this grouping of stars as a giant, shepherd, archer, reaper, and even a deer, pronghorn, or buffalo. Nowadays, it’s most commonly known as “The Hunter,” and is identifiable by some of the brightest stars in the night sky making up his right shoulder (Betelgeuse), left foot (Rigel), and northern end of his thee star belt (Bellatrix). Just below his belt is a tight cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, first observed by Galileo Galilei on Feb. 4, 1617. When the Trapezium is viewed through even the smallest telescopes or binoculars, one can see what is probably the most photographed and studied object in the night sky, the Orion Nebula. M42: The Orion Nebula Magnitude: +4.0 Right Ascension: 5 hr 35 min Declination: -05 Deg., 23’ ***** Visit Prescott Astronomy Club at PrescottAstronomyClub.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAstronomyClub.Org. Adam England is the director-at large and in charge of public relations for the Prescott Astronomy Club

  • What’s Up?: The Pleiades

    Mar 30, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, What's up?No CommentsRead More »

    By Adam England This month we can see one of the most easily recognizable groupings of stars in the winter sky – The Pleiades. Also cataloged as Messier 45 (M45) or colloquially as The Seven Sisters, it is a star cluster of hot blue stars averaging 444 light years from earth. Used by the Ancient Greeks to determine the Mediterranean sailing season, the name is derived from the mythology of Pleione whose seven daughters were saved from the pursuit of Orion when Zeus first transformed them into doves, and then into stars in the heavens. Nebulosity around the stars is visible with a basic telescope or good binoculars on a clear night. M45: The Pleiades Magnitude: 1.5 Size: 120 arc-min Right Ascension: 10 hr 20 min Declination: +19 deg., 51’ ***** Visit Prescott Astronomy Club at PrescottAstronomyClub.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAstronomyClub.Org. Adam England is the director-at-large and in charge of public relations for the Prescott Astronomy Club

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