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February 2019 Skies

Feb 04 2019 08:22 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Mars Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Who let the Groundhog out?, February Moon Focus Constellations: Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini. Cancer, Leo, Leo Minor, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx

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Cosmic Challenge: Sharpless 2-301

Feb 01 2019 02:39 PM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

While a few of Sharpless's entries, such as Sh2-25 (better known as M8, the Lagoon Nebula) and Sh2-49 (M16, the Eagle Nebula), are well known to visual observers, most are among of the most challenging objects to see visually. If you have never made a concerted effort to see some of the lesser known Sharpless objects, then this challenge, Sh2-301 in Canis Major, is a good introduction to the sport.

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January 2019 Skies

Jan 08 2019 11:58 AM | cookman in This Month

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Sunrise and Sunset, January Moon Focus Constellations: Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Triangulum, Andromeda, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini. Camelopardalis, Lynx, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia

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Cosmic Challenge: Jonckheere 320

Jan 01 2019 06:04 AM | PhilH in Phil Harrington's Cosmic Challenge

On January 22, 1916, while revisiting some of the stars in his Catalog and Measures of Double Stars discovered visually from 1905 to 1916 within 105° of the North Pole and under 5" Separation, French astronomer Robert Jonckheere returned to a vague double in Orion, which he had previously designated as entry number 320. Jonckheere was later to write of this encounter through the 28-inch refractor at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, "I noticed that the object I have catalogued as J 320 is not a double star, but, like J 475, it appears with the larger instrument to be an extremely small bright elongated nebula. As is the case with J 900, this object also appears to be new as a nebula."

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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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