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Binocular Universe

A lifelong amateur astronomer, Phil Harrington was bitten by the "astronomical bug" when he was assigned to watch the total lunar eclipse of April 1968 as a homework assignment.

Binocular Universe: So Long, and Thanks for the Fish

Jun 01 2016 04:15 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

First its claws rise above our southeastern horizon. Then comes its brilliant red heart. Finally the hook-shaped tail makes an appearance. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is one of the most recognizable constellations in the entire sky. Within its borders is a bountiful selection of beautiful deep-sky objects strewn across some of the finest heavenly star fields. One of my favorite ways to spend a warm, clear summer evening is to simply sit back and casually scan the Scorpion's crooked body from head to toe. Along the way are many elegant asterisms, clusters and nebulae which provide hours of fascinating sky watching.

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Binocular Universe: The Wonderful Universe of Color

May 02 2016 09:31 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

One look at the beautiful astrophotos posted here on Cloudynights and it’s quite evident that we live in a vibrant and colorful universe. But when we swing our binoculars (and telescopes) skyward, most of what we see visually are varying shades of gray. What's up with that?

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Binocular Universe: Into the Realm

Apr 01 2016 03:31 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Bridging the constellations Coma Berenices and Virgo stands the Wild West for binocular astronomers, where only the brave trod. You may know it as the Coma-Virgo Realm of Galaxies. The Coma-Virgo galaxy cluster is the core of the Coma-Virgo supercluster, which embraces members far and wide. All of the galaxies within autumn’s Sculptor galaxy cluster, as well as our Milky Way as well as the rest of the Local Group of galaxies, are counted among the multitude.

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Binocular Universe: North for the Spring

Feb 27 2016 09:03 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

There's light at the end of the tunnel. The moment we've all been waiting for is almost here. Spring. SPRING! As we begin to say farewell to Orion, Taurus, Canis Major, and the rest of the winter enclave for another year, we welcome the stars of Leo, Ursa Major, and the rest of the spring collection. While not as bright as the winter stars, the spring sky carries with it many exciting targets to which we can raise our binoculars.

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Binocular Universe: South for the Winter

Feb 06 2016 03:39 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

As you head south, everyday constellations rise higher above the southern horizon. Because their light is now piercing less of our earthly atmosphere, familiar objects take on an exciting, more spectacular appearance. At the same time, new and exotic star patterns begin to appear below. What wonders of the universe do these unfamiliar regions hold?

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Binocular Universe: Backyard Evolution

Dec 30 2015 03:45 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Each academic semester, I teach a different undergraduate astronomy course at Suffolk County Community College here on Long Island. Often, when I am teaching the “Astronomy of Stars and Galaxies” course, a student will come up to me before the first class and ask me "so, what's this class all about?" My answer is always the same: "Orion!"

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Binocular Universe: Hunting Big Game!

Nov 26 2015 12:02 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Over the last few months, we have explored planetary nebulae and galaxies hidden in the far southern sky. This month, we head back north to tackle others gracing the December sky that are sure test your mettle. Be forewarned, as the title of this installment says, we are going after some big game.

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Binocular Universe: Out of the Frying Pan and into the...

Nov 01 2015 03:00 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756 from stars originally belonging to Eridanus, the faint constellation Fornax, the Furnace, appears to the naked eye as a nearly starless void southeast of the bright star Diphda (Beta Ceti).

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Binocular Universe: Gone Fishin'

Oct 01 2015 03:00 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

The wet quarter of the sky is made up of several constellations that are associated with water in one way of the other. These include Capricornus, the Sea-Goat; Aquarius, the Water-Bearer; Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish; Cetus, the Whale; and Pisces, the Fishes. All ride low in the southern sky from the vantage point of most of us living in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, you may need to travel to a dark sky that is free of terrestrial obstructions, low-slung light pollution, and any horizon-hugging haze in order to see some of the targets explored below.

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Binocular Universe: Houston’s Triangle

Sep 01 2015 10:10 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Sixty-nine years ago this month, the face of amateur astronomy changed forever. A seed was planted in September 1946 that would blossom into a decades-long infatuation with deep-sky observing among amateurs everywhere. Without any fanfare at the time, a man named Walter Scott Houston took over the reigns of a small column in Sky & Telescope magazine called Deep-Sky Wonders.

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