By Dave Fuller on 12/30/2013 3:18 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of December 30, 2013 thru January 5, 2014 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Dec 30:  Find and observe colorful double stars in Cassiopeia See more colorful doubles and the open cluster NGC752 in Andromeda...
By Dave Fuller on 12/29/2013 4:32 PM
Messier 35 in wide field eyepiece Have you ever looked closely at granular sugar? Not the fine powdered kind, but the type one might stir into iced tea or use to bake a cake. Though the grains may appear remarkably similar in size, when viewed more closely it is possible to see some are smaller, and some are larger. And if a pinch of that sugar - enough to barely sweeten a glass of unsweetened iced tea - were slowly rubbed through fingers to land on a black piece of velvety cloth, what would that look like?

Probably a lot like Messier 35.

This cluster is large - nearly as large as the Pleiades, though not quite as bright. And though the nearby cluster M37 in Auriga often gets the "Salt and Pepper Cluster" designation, I think Messier 35 deserves the "Table Sugar Cluster" designation - but that's just me, perhaps. 

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By Dave Fuller on 12/29/2013 4:06 PM
Castor double star split graphicI'm a bit partial to Gemini. I don't believe in astrology at all, but my "sign" is Gemini, so I've known about the twins for a very long time, though less-so about the stars and astronomy of this region until much more recently in life. What fascinates me is how un-twin-like these two stars are: Pollux is this orange-looking, K-class star in the later phases of of it's life, orbited by a planet some 2.3 times the size of Jupiter. Castor, by contrast, is a six-star system composed of four A-class stars. The ones we see visually naked-eye on the sky is really 2 pairs of 2 spectroscopic binaries. We can split the "A" and "B" pairs with sufficient magnification, but not all four stars because Aa and Ab are too close together, as are Ba and Bb.

So how to observe these? Well, I like to start...
By Dave Fuller on 12/22/2013 6:01 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of December 23 thru December 29 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Dec 23:  Find and observe colorful double stars in Cassiopeia See more colorful doubles and the open cluster NGC752 in Andromeda Tuesday,...
By Dave Fuller on 12/22/2013 4:50 PM
There's really no two ways about it: The Orion Nebula is one of the best objects to see in the sky, and THE best nebula to observe. But how it is seen is dependent on many different factors, starting with your own eyes.

Rod and cone distribution

Fill my eyes.. with that double vision The retina of the human eye has two types of cells: Cones, and rods. Cones are concentrated at the back/center portion of the eye. This makes sense, given that during daylight hours is when we see the most color, and also have plenty of light to be able to see both in the center of our field of vision, and peripherally. This is called photopic vision.

But rods are the cells our eyes use at night. They pick up lower light levels, called scotopic vision but there's a catch: They also don't perceive color. So much of...
By Dave Fuller on 12/22/2013 3:21 PM
An easy constellation for most anyone to find in the night sky is Orion. The three bright stars of nearly equal brightness and distance from each other, in an almost straight line, and surrounded by the quadrangle of Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph and Rigel are pretty hard to miss. And being located partly on either side of the celestial equator, this shape is visible from most every populated area on Earth.

Ancient people in Greece saw this constellation as a hunter. This make sense, given the way the three stars in the middle look like a belt, and it isn't hard to imagine a hunter standing there with a club over his head, fighting Taurus to the west. Below the belt is Orion's sword, three stars that aren't as bright as the previous seven, but nonetheless still get our attention. Those stars are found here:

Orion and magnified sword region

Those three stars are not all that far apart in angular...
By Dave Fuller on 12/22/2013 2:37 PM

NGC 1981 with stars highlightedIf one was looking with a telescope in an star-poor, somewhat sparse region of the galaxy, NGC1981 would be a fantastic sight upon which to stumble. Let's start with where to find this cluster. Look in Orion at the "sword region" of stars and nebulosity. 

By Dave Fuller on 12/20/2013 8:44 AM
I was fresh out of college, had just moved, and the job I had lined up fell through. So I took the job that I could get immediately to care for my wife and newborn daughter. So I did, and worked for one summer at a well known lawn care company. They liked me a lot there, as our company got several handwritten notes from customers whose lawns I sprayed. I think some of the other techs didn't like me because I was new and they'd been there several years. But the key was effective communication: I told people what was up. Yes, I'm spraying your lawn, but it won't be 100% free of weeds, but I'll do my best, and you have to do your part too (mowing properly, watering, etc.).

I knew those things because even though I'd missed the first and most of the second round of applications for the season, I got caught up quickly on being educated about lawn care. One of the things I learned was that even though we were spraying lawns, which are made up of various types of grasses (fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, etc.), grass...
By Dave Fuller on 12/16/2013 3:39 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of December 16 thru December 22 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Dec 16:  Algol at minimum, 22:21 UT Tuesday, Dec 17: "Mini-Moon" - the smallest Full Moon of 2013 occurs at 09:28 UT Wednesday, Dec 18: Uranus appears stationary in the night sky; look for the planet near 44 Piscium  Thursday, Dec 19: Moon is 5 degrees south of Jupiter at 07:00 UT (this will be on the evening of the 18th for the Americas)...

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.