Jump to content


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: Tea Time

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

Would you like a spot of tea? Of course, I'm speaking of the sky's Teapot, Sagittarius. Known in ancient times as an archer, with his arrow aimed tentatively toward Scorpius immediately to the west, Sagittarius is usually portrayed as a centaur: a mythological half-man, half-horse creature.
To modern eyes, however, the constellation's 8 brightest stars form a perfect teapot, complete with lid, spout, and curved handle. And its tea must be ready, judging by all of the steam billowing out of the spout in the form of the Milky Way!

Read story →    -----

Binocular Universe: Once in a Blue Moon

Jun 27 2015 04:45 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

"Once in a Blue Moon." We have all used that phrase at one time or another when talking about something that only happens on rare occasions.  Astronomically speaking, today's definition of a "Blue Moon" refers to the second Full Moon occurring in the same calendar month.

Read story →    -----

Binocular Universe: Let’s Go Fly a Kite

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

The kite-shaped pattern of stars that we know as Boötes (pronounced Boh-oh-teez) is one of the oldest constellations in the entire sky.  Some say that it dates back to ancient Babylon, when they were used to depict the god Enlil, patron god of farmers.  Others trace it to Sumeria, where it represented "The Man Who Drove the Great Cart" (our Big Dipper).

Read story →    *****

Binocular Universe: Project Moonwatch 2015

May 01 2015 01:49 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Ten years ago, I gave a talk at an astronomy convention in western PA called Astroblast. Astroblast is hosted each year by the Oil Region Astronomical Society, based in Franklin. One of the other speakers that year was Eric Fischer from Allison Park, PA, who gave a fascinating presentation entitled "If Sherlock Holmes Observed Artificial Satellites."

Earth-orbiting satellites pass overhead every night, but few of us pay them much mind apart from some idle curiosity. In his presentation, Fischer showed how you can deduce what kind of satellite you’re seeing by the power of observation. I found it intriguing.

Read story →    -----

Binocular Universe: The Kings Meet

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

For the past 6,000 years, the imposing form of Leo the Lion, the king of the beasts, has been stalking the spring sky. Leo is one of the oldest constellations, tracing its origin back to ancient Mesopotamia. Then, as now, stargazers imagined the constellation's hook-shaped "sickle" of stars as the profile of the lion's head, and a triangle of stars to their east as its haunches.

Read story →    *****

Binocular Universe: All Pooped Out

Mar 02 2015 12:15 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

With March comes the promise of winter's end and the return of warmer temperatures. As the northern hemisphere transitions to spring, let's head south one more time to enjoy some little known binocular targets.

Read story →    *****

Binocular Universe: Going to the Dogs

Feb 02 2015 11:06 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

As the owner of three dogs, I always look forward to the annual Westminster Dog Show held every February in New York City. Westminster attracts thousands of the finest canines from around the globe to vie for the coveted title of Best in Show. The sky also puts on its own dog show every winter. We have Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, rising in the northeast, Canis Minor, the Small Dog, high in the south, and Canis Major, the Large Dog, in the south-southwest.

Read story →    -----

Binocular Universe: Happy New Year

Jan 02 2015 08:52 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Let’s kick off the New Year and the first full month of winter by paying a call on some lesser known targets of the season. The subtle glow of the winter Milky Way, flowing southward from Gemini through Monoceros and into Canis Major, brings many star clusters that beckon our attention. Some of these are striking through binoculars, while others are a challenge just to see.

Read story →    *****

Binocular Universe: California Dreamin'

Dec 12 2014 04:31 PM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Where has the time gone?  It seems like only yesterday that we were ushering in 2014 and here we are, getting ready to ring it out and welcome in 2015!  Let’s close out the year with a bang.  Go big or go home, they say.  So this month, we are going big!

Read story →    *****

Binocular Universe: Trumpler's Triangle

Nov 26 2014 11:59 AM | PhilH in Binocular Universe

Over the years, this column has included several off-the-beaten-path objects that go ignored in most observing handbooks. This month, I’d like to continue that tradition by paying a call on the first three entries in a catalog of open star clusters published in 1930 by Swiss-American astronomer Robert J. Trumpler.

Read story →    -----

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics