There's a lot of great information available from both timeless "Basics" astronomy videos, to the weekly Eyes on the Sky videos of the past. Check them out here.
After the amazing Double Cluster and the very large Alpha Persei Cluster, Messier 34 might seem like a let-down. But this is a fantastic open cluster on it's own - just remember not to compare it to the other ones. It is smaller. It is less dense with stars. But on it's own, it IS a great open cluster to observe.
And, nearby is a lovely double star that many don't know to observe: 20 Persei. It's simple to locate once you know the "jump off" points to star hop over to M34. Check out the video above for details.
Large and very simple to find, but often overlooked due to the nearby Double Cluster, the Alpha Persei Cluster is nonetheless a wonderful open cluster to observe in Perseus. But! It is HUGE in an eyepiece - too large, in fact, to see fully with most telescopes even at very low magnification. How does one find and observe this object then? Watch the video above to find out.
For many, Cepheus may seem like a "pass-over" constellation; after all, Cassiopeia is literally littered with open clusters, and the Milky Way abounds with things to see just beyond in Cygnus. But the King, though dim, has quite a few worthwhile objects to see.
To begin, Delta Cephei is a pulsating variable star that can be seen naked eye from many areas, and easily with binoculars from severely light polluted locations. It is also the progenitor star for that class of variable. Not far from there is the deep-hued star of Mu Cephei, a massive red giant star about 6,000 light years away that glows a warm orange - perfect for cool October nights. Nearby is the very large open cluster IC 1396, though darker skies will help to see more of that. But for city dwellers, look the other direction - NGC 7160 may be small compared to IC 1396, but even a small telescope will give up some of it's stars. And easy for anyone is Xi Cephei, a double star split by most any telescope, but close enough together to offer up some intrigue.
Check out Cepheus this month, especially while the Moon is out the way. To download a star chart of the Cepheus region, click here.
Over in the morning sky, a lovely dance of planets is developing. Venus, Mars and Jupiter are all within a short angular distance of each other, and later in the month, Mercury tries to join them. Plus! The Moon stops by in early October, and again in early November. Check out this "planetary pile up" in the first part of the video above.
And on October 2, the Moon passes through the Hyades in Taurus. After the Sun rises for much of North America, the Moon will keep on moving and occult the first magnitude star Aldebaran. Can you see a star in the daytime? Of course you can! (A telescope of 4" / 100mm aperture is recommended.) The hard part if finding them. But with the large gibbous Moon to guide you to Aldebaran, it should be easy to find on Friday. See more in the video.
Sagitta may be small, but there's a lot to see in and around this neat little constellation - and none of it is all that hard to find. First stop is the Coathangar, which, very much like Sagitta looks like an arrow, looks like a coathangar. Next is a dim, but reasonably-seen globular cluster - it is a Messier object, after all, so it's not too hard to find. How WELL you see it will depend on the aperture of your telescope, and the darkness of your skies. After that, a trek out of the constellation, but very nearby into Vulpecula to find the Dumbbell Nebula, along with two very tight and challenging double stars.
See Neptune through September and October with just binoculars - or, use that as a great way to learn the star hop for when you move to the finderscope on your telescope. This video shows both the correct-image, binoculars field of view star hop, AND the reversed imaged finderscope star hop to the 8th planet. Also covered is where to find the area of sky Neptune is located - check it out, and find this planet this month! Static graphics below tell more of the story below, and Sky and Telescope has a longer-term motion star chart here.
There's a lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27. Check out the video above for more details about this event. For times when you can expect to see this eclipse, check out the timetable below:
See Neptune this week and into September and October with just binoculars - or, use that as a great way to learn the star hop for when you move to the finderscope on your telescope. This video shows both the correct-image, binoculars field of view star hop, AND the reversed imaged finderscope star hop to the 8th planet. Also covered is where to find the area of sky Neptune is located - check it out, and find this planet this month! Static graphics below tell more of the story below, and Sky and Telescope has a longer-term motion star chart here.
Doubles in the Harp
Here's a new "Eyes on the Sky video! I've gone with a new format to allow me to make the videos faster, and also include more detail. I simply didn't have the time to keep putting into the old format. Hopefully everyone likes this new version. If you'd like to skip to specific sections, use these links (opens new windows in YouTube):
There's some big changes happening in the night sky with respect to where the planets are visible. Mercury marks off space in the early morning sky (look soon! It's quick!), Venus is sliding around the Sun and will be an 'evening star' in the next month or so, Mars is mozying its way above the horizon in the evening (for a looooong time), Jupiter will soon be jumping its way to an evening object, Saturn is slipping past the Sun - in the opposite direction of Venus! - and Uranus and Neptune are ideally placed for night-time viewing.
Finder chart for Uranus and Neptune here.
See the link for more information on how to view the planets successfully.
With Halloween this week, it is a great time to look at some stars that 'dress up' and change their appearance - though many of them do it quite regularly! Check out several easy-to-spot stars in Cepheus the King that are variable in nature, along with one that has a binary companion that's split in most any small telescope.
Check out Chart #1 for a star map you can download of the Cepheus region.
The AAVSO guide to Delta Cephei.
Lunar eclipses aren't terribly rare, but most people recognize they don't happen every month, so they look for them. But solar eclipses are even rarer than lunar ones, so when they happen, go look! This week offers a great opportunity for most of North America - check the map in the video for areas that can see it. Also, lots of resources here, such as:
Most importantly, watch the video below for how to view the Sun safely. There are several ways to view a partial eclipse safely without using a solar filter, but NEVER look directly at the Sun, and be sure to know that your method IS safe - this video shows you what's safe, and what's not.
This constellation harbors perhaps the most-observed spiral galaxy in the night sky: Messier 31. But that's not the only thing here - the brightest stars of Andromeda are fascinating in and of themselves. For example, ever hear of a mercury-manganese star? There's one in Andromeda. Another bright star here, while appearing as lovely double, is actually a quadruple system. Another is not much larger than our Sun, but is a lot hotter.
All that, plus tips on how to find that great galaxy lurking in the same line-of-sight from our perspective - learn all about them in the video above. And for a more detailed star chart you can print off to bring outside, see these free star maps here. Oh, and even if you know the mythology story about Andromeda, don't miss this week's "Astronomy Theater" - it's a quick and fun version of her story.
Well, it sure is a busy week for amateur astronomy! First, there is a lunar eclipse occurring; to find out the times you may be able to see it, click here.
Next, Uranus is at opposition this week. While not exactly the most exciting planet to view for features (there pretty much are no features to see), simply finding and observing the planet with your own eyes is exciting for many amateurs. The Moon passes right near Uranus during the eclipse, but the video above shows a neat trick to finding the planet easily with binoculars or a finderscope over the next few months.
And lastly, the Draconids. While not a major shower - and one that would normally get zero attention from me due to the full Moon phase this week - check for them during the eclipse when you're not looking at Luna. You might see a few with a radiant point in the Dragon. More tips on observing meteors here.
The major mare on the lunar surface are well known to observers, even if they don't know their names. The dark splotches can be seen naked eye from Earth compared to the brighter, craters areas. But there are some maria that are slightly hidden from view, and best seen only when the libration of the Moon causes it to "tilt" a bit more one way or the other.
Mare Australe gets the benefit of that tilting this week, as the southeastern edge of the Moon can be seen better than at other times. The dark lava of this often-unobserved mare is seen from an oblique angle, but most any small telescope can see it - look for it all week long.
Also in the southeast of the Moon is Rupes Altai - an escarpment, or cliff - that is over 400 kilometers long. Learn where to see this, along with a 'wavy line' caused by sunlight catching the tops of four other craters. What else is there to see? Deslandres, the crater "Hell" (yes really!), Clavius, Tycho, Landsberg, Reinhold and others. All easily spotted with a 60mm telescope or larger.
Summer leaves and autumn arrives early this week, and the familiar friends of summer like Sagittarius, Scorpius, and other southern night sky constellations will soon be gone from the evening sky. But replacing them are many autumn shapes such as the Great Square of Pegasus, and the Summer Triangle actually hangs around overhead and towards the west for the rest of this coming season. Learn how to find a whole bunch of constellations and the brighter stars of autumn simply by pointing to those shapes from the Triangle or Square stars. It's easy! Dave will show you how in this week's Eyes on the Sky episode.