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December 2018 Skies

Dec 05 2018 09:47 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Winter Solstice, December Moon Focus Constellations: Hercules, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Triangulum, Andromeda, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Gemini. Camelopardalis, Lynx, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia

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Cosmic Challenge: Globular clusters in M31

Dec 01 2018 06:00 AM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

The Andromeda Galaxy, M31, was probably one of the first galaxies you ever saw first-hand. It was mine. That was all way back in 1969. Since then, I have grown to appreciate it as far more than just the ill-defined oval blur I drew in my logbook. But in 1969, the thought of looking for individual objects within M31 never crossed my mind.

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November 2018 Skies

Nov 05 2018 10:57 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Celestial Sea, November Moon Focus Constellations: Hercules, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Triangulum, Andromeda, Perseus, Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major

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Cosmic Challenge: NGC 147 and NGC 185

Nov 04 2018 08:46 AM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

M32 and M110 are nice challenges for handheld binoculars. Most amateurs are familiar with them, since they lie in the same field of view of the parent Andromeda Galaxy. But two others, designated as NGC 147 and NGC 185, are not as nearly well known. Both are several degrees to M31's north, across the border in Cassiopeia and feature smaller, fainter disks that are much more challenging to see.

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October 2018 Skies

Oct 06 2018 07:16 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Hallowe’en, October Moon Focus Constellations: Hercules, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Triangulum, Andromeda, Perseus, Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major

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Cosmic Challenge: Einstein's Cross

Oct 01 2018 08:53 PM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

From an aesthetic perspective, the most perfect gravitational lens is Einstein's Cross, formed by the galaxy PGC 69457 (cross- cataloged as CGCG 378-15) and the quasar QSO 2237+0305 in Pegasus. PGC 69457 is also known informally as Huchra's Lens after its discoverer, John Huchra, professor of cosmology Harvard University. Current estimates place this small, otherwise unspectacular spiral galaxy at 400 million light years away. The quasar lurks far behind at an incredible distance of 8 billion light-years. Were it not for gravitational lensing, the quasar would remain hidden by the galaxy, as the two are nearly in-line as seen from Earth. But as it is, Huchra's lens fractures the ancient light from the quasar into four separate paths that slide around the galaxy just as water flows around a rock in a stream. The end result is not one, but four ghostly images of QSO 2237+0305 surrounding the nucleus of PGC 69457 in a practically perfect diamond pattern.

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September 2018 Skies

Sep 04 2018 08:03 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Fall Equinox, September Moon Focus Constellations: Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus

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Cosmic Challenge: North America Nebula (NGC 7000)

Sep 01 2018 05:07 PM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

The North America Nebula (NGC 7000) is a large expanse of glowing hydrogen gas mixed with opaque clouds of cosmic dust just 3° east of Deneb [Alpha (α) Cygni] and 1° to the west of 4th-magnitude Xi (ξ) Cygni. Famous as one of the most luminous blue supergiants visible in the night sky, Deneb marks the tail of Cygnus the Swan, or if you prefer, the top of the Northern Cross asterism.

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August 2018 Skies

Aug 04 2018 09:48 PM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, August Moon Focus Constellations: Coma Berenices, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus

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Cosmic Challenge: Campbell's Hydrogen Star

Jul 31 2018 06:56 PM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

American astronomer William Wallace Campbell spotted this unusual star-like object through a visual spectroscope at Lick Observatory in 1893. He could tell immediately from its spectrum that, despite its stellar appearance, he was not seeing an ordinary star at all. Instead, he had spotted an uncharted planetary nebula.

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